Georgia Legislature Passes Tax Bill, Without Delta Benefit

The GOP-dominated Senate Rules Committee chopped a provision to lift the state sales tax on jet fuel from the broader tax bill.
The GOP-dominated Senate Rules Committee chopped a provision to lift the state sales tax on jet fuel from the broader tax bill.
Credit Dustin Chambers

The Georgia legislature gave final passage to a bill Thursday that would cut state income tax rates for individuals and corporations, without a tax break on jet fuels for airlines.

Earlier this week, Republican state Senate leaders took out the jet fuel provision from the income tax bill. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tweeted on Monday he would “kill any tax legislation that benefits Delta” after Delta Air Lines said it would stop giving discounts to NRA.

Gov. Nathan Deal criticized lawmakers on Wednesday of their “antics that tend to plague election years.” Despite that, he said he would sign the tax cut bill, which he had announced earlier this year alongside Cagle at a press conference. 

The tax bill that passed today would reduce the top income tax rate next year from 6 percent to 5.75 percent, and give lawmakers an opportunity reduce it to 5.5 percent in 2010. It would also double the standard deduction for filers.

“Obviously the political environment sometimes does get a little bit testy, but in the end it’s all about the product and the product we have today is something that all of us can be very proud of,” Cagle said Thursday after the Senate voted on the measure 44-10.

State Sen. Steve Henson, a Democrat, voted against the measure, saying the state needed to act with caution to see how the federal tax changes affect the state.

“We need to make sure we take care of our education system, and we haven’t done that. We need to make sure that we really take care of our pension programs, and we haven’t done that,” Henson said.

Deal said he will pursue exempting jet fuel from sales taxes separately.

That could be a tough sell with GOP leaders in the legislature. Though he refrained Thursday from further fiery rhetoric on Delta, Cagle showed no softening of his opposition to the jet fuel exemption.

“I think everyone knows my position on this issue, so I don’t see any wiggle room, no,” Cagle told reporters.

Delta’s decision to stop offering NRA members discounted fares was announced in the wake of the deadly Valentine’s Day shooting at a Florida high school. The airline employs 33,000 workers in Georgia. Its busy Atlanta hub has made Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport the busiest in the world.

Deal has said the broader tax bill “represents one of the single largest income tax reforms in the history of our state.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.