Law­maker: Ge­or­gia GOP work­ing to mend Delta rift over NRA,

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - BUSINESS - BY BEN NADLER AND R.J. RICO

Repub­li­cans com­pet­ing to be­come Ge­or­gia’s next gover­nor united Tues­day be­hind a charge to pun­ish Delta Air Lines for cut­ting busi­ness ties with the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, while the state’s term-lim­ited GOP gover­nor and oth­ers re­frained from com­ment­ing pub­licly as of­fi­cials worked be­hind the scenes to re­solve the feud.

Fall­out from the deadly Valen­tine’s Day school shoot­ing in Florida en­gulfed Ge­or­gia pol­i­tics Mon­day when Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle, a lead­ing GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial con­tender, said he wants to block re­newal of a ma­jor tax break for Delta af­ter the At­lanta-based air­line an­nounced it will no longer of­fer dis­counted rates for NRA mem­bers fly­ing to the group’s con­ven­tions.

Four of Ca­gle’s Repub­li­can ri­vals in the 2018 race for gover­nor said they also sup­port halt­ing the $38 mil­lion-per-year sales tax ex­emp­tion on jet fuel that would pri­mar­ily ben­e­fit Delta. One GOP can­di­date, Sec­re­tary of State Brian Kemp, sug­gested us­ing that money in­stead for a “sales tax hol­i­day” for Ge­or­gians to buy guns and am­mu­ni­tion tax-free.

The Repub­li­can chair­man of a Se­nate com­mit­tee that ap­proved the tax break last week said of­fi­cials at the state­house were work­ing Tues­day to re­solve the rift be­tween GOP law­mak­ers and Delta. Sen. Chuck Huf­stetler of Rome said law­mak­ers felt Delta un­fairly sin­gled out the NRA while main­tain­ing spe­cial agree­ments with “many other con­tro­ver­sial or­ga­ni­za­tions.”

“There’s work on­go­ing to try to fix this dis­agree­ment,” Huf­stetler said. “… I think this ad­di­tional is­sue where they were treat­ing (the NRA) dif­fer­ent from all the other or­ga­ni­za­tions pushed a lot of the mem­bers over the edge.”

Gov. Nathan Deal, who has some­times clashed with so­cial con­ser­va­tives in his own party on is­sues he feared could tar­nish Ge­or­gia’s busi­ness-friendly rep­u­ta­tion, had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on the Delta dis­pute Tues­day, spokes­woman Jen Ryan said. House Speaker David Ral­ston, an­other pow­er­ful Repub­li­can, also was quiet.

Repub­li­cans who have lined up against Delta have demon­strated once again the pow­er­ful sup­port for gun rights in Ge­or­gia. In re­cent years, the GOP-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture has greatly ex­panded the rights of li­censed gun own­ers to bring their weapons to bars, schools, col­lege cam­puses and even some gov­ern­ment build­ings.

Still, the ire directed pub­licly at Delta seems po­lit­i­cally ex­tra­or­di­nary. In his tweet Mon­day vow­ing to kill any tax break ben­e­fit­ing Delta, Ca­gle said: “Cor­po­ra­tions can­not at­tack con­ser­va­tives and ex­pect us not to fight back.”

Delta is one of Ge­or­gia’s largest pri­vate em­ploy­ers, with 33,000 work­ers statewide, and its busy At­lanta hub has made Harts­field-Jack­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port the busiest in the world.

Although Ca­gle’s blunt threat to kill the tax cut may win fans among GOP vot­ers, it could also back­fire when it comes to re­cruit­ing busi­ness — most notably Ge­or­gia’s sta­tus as a fi­nal­ist for Ama­zon’s planned sec­ond U.S. head­quar­ters, said William Hatcher, an Augusta Univer­sity pro­fes­sor who stud­ies eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“It’s not good eco­nomic pol­icy to threaten one of the largest em­ploy­ers in your state,” Hatcher said. “You see the po­lit­i­cal logic in try­ing to fire up the base. But it’s also risky.”

“It’s not good eco­nomic pol­icy to threaten one of the largest em­ploy­ers in your state.”


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