- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2018

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed Friday a tax-reform bill that eliminated a lucrative tax break for Delta Airlines over dropping its partnership with the National Rifle Association, but the airline insisted that there are no hard feelings.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian called the Republican governor a “great friend” despite the signing of the $5 billion tax-cut legislation, which was shorn by the state Senate of a $50 million jet-fuel tax exemption last week in retaliation for Delta’s ending of its discount deal for NRA members.

Delta announced Feb. 24 that it would eliminate the membership discount, prompting Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to vow that he would kill any airline tax break until the company reinstated its partnership with the NRA.

In a Friday statement, Mr. Bastian that he considered the governor to be a “friend” and thanked him for his work on the issue.

“I have tremendous respect and admiration for Governor Nathan Deal, and thank him for the work he has done on the jet fuel tax exemption,” Mr. Bastian said. “He is a great friend to Delta. I know this action by the state legislature troubled him as it does all of us.”

Mr. Deal said at a Wednesday press conference he would keep working to resolve the rift.

“Delta made a statement or an action that caused this dispute to erupt,” Mr. Deal said. “I’ve tried my best to resolve it within the time frame we have available to us. I am still hopeful that some of those feelings and positions can be rectified, but they could not be in the time frame we were operating under.”

More than a dozen companies have dropped their NRA membership partnerships following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead.

Mr. Bastian said that the airline is reviewing its partnerships and would rescind deals with other political organizations.

“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,” Mr. Bastian said. “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale. We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.”

He added that Atlanta would remain the airline’s home, despite overtures from states such as New York and Virginia.

“None of this changes the fact that our home is Atlanta and we are proud and honored to locate our headquarters here,” Mr. Bastian said. “And we are supporters of the Second Amendment, just as we embrace the entire Constitution of the United States.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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