The lieutenant governor in Georgia threatened on Monday to kill a proposed lucrative tax cut for Delta Air Lines after the company eliminated a discount fare program for the National Rifle Association over the weekend.
The move by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the State Senate, immediately put the legislation in jeopardy and put him at loggerheads with other top state officials, including the governor, who had championed the tax deal. The showdown between one of Georgia’s most powerful politicians and one of the state’s largest employers was the latest clash in a national debate around guns after the deadly school shooting in Florida this month.
Mr. Cagle, a Republican, fired the salvo at Delta on Twitter on Monday afternoon, saying that the Atlanta-based company must restore its program with the N.R.A. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” Mr. Cagle, who had expressed his support for the bill earlier this month, said on Twitter.
Mr. Cagle, who received an A+ grade by the N.R.A. when he was running for his position in 2006, did not return a call seeking comment on Monday evening. A spokeswoman for Gov. Nathan Deal, who had said the tax bill was necessary to encourage airlines to open direct routes from Georgia to destinations around the world, did not return an email seeking comment.
Other Republicans in the State Legislature also on Monday pulled back their support for the bill, which would grant a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel, primarily benefiting Delta. Among the new critics was the House speaker, David Ralston, who said on Monday that he was disappointed with Delta and wished it had announced the decision before the House approved the tax bill on Thursday. The legislation moved the next day to the Senate, where it seemed to have broad support.
But on Saturday, that support all but evaporated after Delta announced it had eliminated a discount fare program for travelers to attend the N.R.A.’s 2018 annual meeting in May. The airline, which had come under growing pressure from its customers and others to cut ties with the gun group, said its decision “reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings.”