Georgia’s GOP-led House voted to strip a major jet fuel tax break for Delta Air Lines worth tens of million of dollars on Wednesday after the company’s CEO publicly issued a stern condemnation of the restrictive provisions in the state’s new voting law.
Although the state Senate did not take up the measure before Georgia lawmakers adjourned for the year, the state House’s threat against Delta signals the potential political backlash that major corporations face after coming out against Georgia’s new law.
Hours before the Georgia House’s vote to revoke the company’s jet fuel tax break, Delta CEO Ed Bastian blasted the “unacceptable” new law.
In a letter sent to employees on Wednesday morning, Bastian said that although Delta and other major Atlanta corporations had “some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed,” he needed to make his opposition to the law more direct.
“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian said. “The right to vote is sacred. It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.”
Soon after the Delta CEO publicly came out against the new law — which was issued following mounting backlash over the executive’s initial muted opposition to it upon its passage last week — Georgia Republicans began floating ideas on punishing the airline corporation.
A senior Republican told the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Wednesday that lawmakers likened the Delta CEO’s condemnation of the new law to the company “shooting us in the face with a shotgun without telling us it was coming.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) also swiftly took aim at Bastian in a defensive statement accusing the Delta CEO of mischaracterizing the law’s provisions.
“Today’s statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists,” Kemp said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Mr. Bastian should compare voting laws in Georgia — which include no-excuse absentee balloting, online voter registration, 17 days of early voting with an additional two optional Sundays, and automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license — with other states Delta Airlines operates in.”
Major corporations began reversing course on their initial muted opposition to the new restrictive Georgia voting law after days of mounting backlash, at least three lawsuits spearheaded by a number of Black community and civil rights groups challenging several of the law’s provisions, and conversations with leaders in the Black community.
The new Georgia voting law includes restrictions such as new ID requirements for mail voting, limits on dropbox use and banning the distribution of food and most beverages to voters waiting in line.