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Delta backlash could cost GOP in Georgia

Delta NRA-5

Passengers unload in front of a Delta Air Lines sign at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, in Atlanta.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Casey Cagle may have shot holes in his gubernatorial chances last week by threatening to kill a tax incentive bill that would have benefited Delta Airlines. Cagle, whose job also makes him state senate president, vowed to defeat a jet fuel tax incentive bill in retaliation for Delta ending a fare discount for National Rifle Association members.

Cagle has vowed to will kill any tax legislation that benefits Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with the NRA. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” he said in a Tweet.

Cagle’s defense of the NRA aside, he is contradicting perhaps the biggest conservative tenet of all: To leave private business operating decisions to private businesses.

He’d be well inside the Republican tent if he opposed the jet fuel tax incentive on the basis of it being an unnecessary, taxpayer-supported corporate crutch. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will run against Cagle for governor in the May primary, took just that approach.

Kemp pulled the trigger on his own governorship hopes a few hours later, though. He advocated, again via Twitter, for killing the jet fuel tax break and replacing it with a sales tax holiday targeting — wait for it — firearms sales.

Such political shortsightedness is staggering. This is pure pandering to a relatively small group of primary voters — many of whom were certain to vote for Cagle or Kemp anyway.

Consider this: the NRA claims 5 million members nationwide. State stats are not available, but using the national percentage as a guide and applying it to Georgia’s adult population of 7.8 million, the Peach State’s NRA membership is probably around 235,000.

Assuming a significant percentage of those are registered Republicans, the political loose cannons are aiming at approximately 5 percent of party voters. And neither is differentiating himself from the other.

Meanwhile, they are alienating the much larger conservative constituency that believes in small government and is pro-business when it comes to tax breaks. And in a state with open primaries, Cagle and Kemp are peppering tens of thousands of prospective voters who work for aircraft-related businesses with their rapid-fire stupidity.

Delta employs 33,000 in Georgia, making it the largest private employer in the state. The jet fuel tax incentive also impacts local business aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream, which employs more than 10,000 Georgians. Several thousand more voters work at the state’s airports, including the world’s busiest in Atlanta. The bill is a competitive boost for those airports, the lower taxes allowing them to draw flights away from other airports. And what’s good for the airport is good for its employees and those who work for airport concessionaires and other related businesses.

Then there’s the post-primary trauma. Should Cagle or Kemp win in May, their tweets will put them in Democrat crosshairs. The NRA is under serious fire for hiding behind the Second Amendment at any suggestion of stricter gun control laws, such as age limits and bump stock bans, and the retort is sure to grow louder in the months ahead.

Granted, a Democrat hasn’t held Georgia’s top executive spot since Roy Barnes was voted out in favor of Sonny Perdue 15 years ago. But given the public outrage being voiced by all but the most gun-loving conservatives in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the gun control issue will give the Democratic primary winner a bipartisan platform to blast away from this fall.

Cagle and Kemp would be wise to walk back their Twitter comments and revisit their stances.

Cagle needs to show leadership in the senate and encourage his fellow Republicans to vote on the jet fuel tax incentive bill on its merits and stop treating it as a hostage awaiting execution. Kemp should bite the bullet, admit his tone-deafness and stop with the firearms sales tax holiday nonsense.

Otherwise voters should make sure neither of these active shooters are in the fight come fall.

Savannah Morning News