Delta CEO: Ending NRA discount was attempt to be neutral

Delta tax break at stake in spat with Ga. GOP over NRA

The exclusion was motivated by Delta Air Lines' announcement that it would join a number of businesses in ending its discount program for National Rifle Association members.

Prior to passing the tax bill, Georgia's Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) said the measure would not contain the jet fuel exemption if Delta did not reinstate its discount to NRA members.

Delta's decision to rescind a group travel discount for National Rifle Association members attending the NRA's convention was an attempt to remain neutral in the national debate around gun laws following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a message to employees.

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

The move capped a week in which Delta joined other USA companies in cutting business ties with the NRA after a shooting last month at a Florida high school, in which 17 people were killed. FedEx is now the only major company to still offer perks to NRA members.

"I think if we were able to bring those jobs here, then personal politics would be set aside", he said.

Last weekend, Delta, which employs 33,000 Georgians, announced its decision to cut ties with the gun rights group, after the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead.

Bastian added that Delta is reviewing and reconsidering discounts for other politically divisive groups.

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"None of this changes the fact that our home is Atlanta and we are proud and honored to locate our headquarters here".

Bastian conceded the decision created controversy at Delta.

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.

"I'm exhausted of conservatives being kicked around on our values and it's time that we stand up and fight and show corporations that conservative values are important", Cagle said Monday afternoon.

The proposed tax break at the center of the debate impacts the cost of jet fuel.

In his memo, Bastian sought to strike a balance - voicing support for the Second Amendment while saying it wanted to remove any "implied affiliation with the NRA".

But Bastian said the Georgia-based company stands by its decision to cut ties with the NRA despite backlash from state lawmakers, who passed legislation in retaliation Thursday to kill tax exemptions on jet fuel Delta uses. Bastian applauded the governor in his memo to Delta staff, calling him a "great friend" to the company.

"It definitely could have an effect when an outside company looks at something that happens this quickly around election time to one of the largest employers in the state", said William Hatcher, a professor at Augusta University who studies economic development.

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