The legislative change was billed as punishment for Delta's decision to sever ties with the National Rifle Association. The airline's decision was part of a greater movement of companies distancing themselves from the NRA in the wake of Parkland, Florida's recent school shooting.
"I hope they are better at flying airplanes than timing P.R. announcements," Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, said after his chamber gave final approval to a larger tax-cut bill that was stripped of the jet fuel tax exemption.
Numerous companies have moved away from the NRA in recent weeks, including United Airlines, Allied and North American Van Lines, Avis Budget Group, Hertz, Enteprise, MetLife, Symantec, and others; but so far, Delta has taken the most heat.
Delta's decision triggered a showdown with pro-gun lawmakers in Georgia, where the Atlanta-based airline is one of the largest employers with 33,000 employees statewide. Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the state Senate's presiding officer, vowed Monday to stop any tax break that would benefit Delta.
Cagle tweeted Monday,
Delta thus far has not commented publicly on the matter, but in an internal company memo, CEO Ed Bastian said the company seeks to remain politically neutral:
"Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides. Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate," Bastian wrote.
"While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course. Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale," he added.