Senate committee votes to strip Delta tax break

ATLANTA — The state Senate Rules Committee voted to strip the Delta jet fuel tax break out of the comprehensive tax overhaul.

This is fallout from the Delta-NRA dustup. Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle threatened to kill the tax break for Delta because the airline stopped discounts for NRA members.

The jet fuel tax break was part of a comprehensive tax overhaul, which included the first income tax cut in state history.

The amendment was presented by the governor's floor leader. He said no one wanted to sacrifice those tax cuts to an unpopular jet fuel tax break.

“This is a way to ensure that the tax cuts are passed and that the taxpayers of Georgia are rewarded,” Sen. P.K. Martin said.

Democratic leader Senator Steve Henson said the decision should not have been made in this tense political climate.

“I think it’s definitely making a decision, knee jerk, with politics involved too heavily,” he said.

Gov. Nathan Deal responded to the controversy Wednesday.

He was disappointed, saying he felt the jet fuel tax break was needed to keep the state competitive with airports in other state. However, he decided that tax break was not worth losing tax cuts for Georgians.

“When it has passed both chambers, I will sign it into law because it is what is right for our citizens,” he said.

Deal didn’t let Delta off the hook for its decision to make its announcement about the NRA during debate on the tax break, but he also criticized Cagle and other gubernatorial candidates for playing politics with that controversy and putting Georgia’s economic future at risk.

“We were not elected to give the late-night talk show hosts further fodder for their monologues or to act with the type of immaturity that has caused so many in our society to be skeptical about politics,” he said.

The tax overhaul bill will double the standard deduction for Georgians and will also lower the tax rate from 6 percent to 5.7 percent with an option to lower it to 5.5 percent in 2020.

The governor said he will continue to push for the jet fuel tax break because that tax is out of compliance with FAA regulations.