Whipple proposes Delta HQ move after proposed tax cut


A day after political fallout came down from Georgia on Delta Air Lines (DAL -0.6%) over ending some NRA discounts, the company's CEO says "we are not taking sides" in the gun debate.

Bastian explained that Delta's "decision followed the NRA's controversial statements after the recent school shootings in Florida", adding: "Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA".

Delta attempted to assuage the political backlash, stating the decision to end the relationship with the NRA was created to stay above the fray in the recent fight over gun control following the mass shooting at a high school in Florida.

A Delta spokesperson told the Atlanta Journal Constitution only 13 passengers had used the NRA discount.

When Delta Airlines announced that it would cut ties with the NRA, the Georgia legislature cracked down and stripped the company of a coveted tax break.

The state House and Senate passed, by large margins Thursday, a sweeping tax bill the GOP amended to strip out a sales tax exemption on jet fuel.

Mr. Deal said he supported the inclusion of the jet-fuel tax break provision that was removed from the bill, but would still sign it because of its reductions of personal and corporate tax rates.

In the days since the showdown between Delta and Georgia Republicans began, top blue-state politicians have encouraged Delta to relocate its hub from Atlanta.

The exemption had been expected to save airlines about US$40 million, with Delta seeing the largest benefit as the state's dominant carrier.

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That's not, of course, how NRA supporters or the Georgia lawmakers regard Delta's decision.

Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running in a crowded primary for governor in May, set the stage for the fight with a tweet Monday saying conservatives would fight back. That's a small cost for the nation's second-largest carrier, which paid US$5.7 billion for jet fuel and related taxes previous year and had revenue of more than US$41 billion.

Delta said it would review all of its partnerships and end all politically charged affiliations.

Delta's Bastian sent a memo to company employees that the intent was not to take sides. Delta's headquarters are in Atlanta.

More than a dozen companies cut ties with the NRA after 17 students and staff were shot to death at a high school in Florida.

Other companies have offered more context for their decisions after an initial statement distancing themselves from the gun organization.

Lawmakers were upset that Delta, which is headquartered in Atlanta, dropped the National Rifle Association from a discount-fare program in an effort to appear neutral on gun policy. I know this action by the state legislature troubled him as it does all of us.

"We are proud and honored to locate our headquarters here", he said.