How Lawmakers Punishing Delta Could Affect Business In Georgia

Delta Air Lines jets line up on the tarmac at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Delta Air Lines jets line up on the tarmac at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Credit Ric Feld, file / Associated Press

Some Republican state lawmakers are vowing to block a tax break for Delta Air Lines, after the Atlanta-based company ended its partnership with the National Rifle Association.

With Delta being Georgia’s biggest employer, what could the tit-for-tat mean for business in the state?

Tom Smith, an economist with Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, said the political move likely won’t scare off Delta, especially considering the scale of its operations here.

Delta was set to save millions from the bill eliminating the state tax on jet fuel. Still, if the legislative effort fails, Smith said Delta won’t be any worse off than it was before.

“But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other companies that are looking at these actions and saying wait a minute,” Smith said.

Smith said if corporations outside Georgia see they could be penalized for how they do business, they might question moving here. One such corporation might be Amazon, as it searches for a location for its second headquarters.

The move by the state legislature breaks with a Georgia tradition of setting politics aside to attract business, according to University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

“It’s become an unofficial requirement that our governor will be the foremost person trying to convince outside interests to invest in the state,” he said.

Bullock also noted that several of the state legislators putting pressure on Delta are competing to get the Republican nomination in the Georgia gubernatorial race. That means they’re racing to appeal to conservative voters.

When the general election comes around, he said, the lawmakers may assume a more business-friendly stance.

The state legislators said they wouldn’t approve the jet fuel bill until Delta reinstated discounts for NRA members.

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