Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp greet each other before a live taping of the 2018 Gubernatorial debate for the Atlanta Press Club. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Abrams and Kemp both back jet-fuel tax break as new vote nears 

Both leading contenders for Georgia governor support a tax break for Delta Air Lines and other air carriers ahead of a special legislative session where lawmakers could get the chance to settle the controversial debate.

At Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate, both Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams said they supported the tax exemption, which could save the Atlanta-based airline about $40 million a year. 

(Libertarian Ted Metz, who is at 2 percent in recent polls, said he would oppose the break.)

Abrams, a former House minority leader, had long been supportive of the tax exemption for the state’s largest private employer. 

But Kemp and other leading Republicans joined the call to reject the tax break in February after Delta cut business ties with the National Rifle Association.

At the time, the secretary of state urged lawmakers “to kill the tax break for Delta and replace it with a sales tax holiday that benefits the same 2nd Amendment supporters that Delta – and other corporate cowards – are publicly shaming.” 

Kemp didn’t elaborate on his shift during the debate, as time constraints allowed only a yes-no response. But he earlier said he was swayed by Delta’s argument that sales taxes on jet fuel put Georgia at a disadvantage to other states that charge less.

The debate over the tax incentives roared back to life on Tuesday when Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a special session to cover cleanup costs associated with Hurricane Michael – and also require a new vote on the publicly-funded incentives. 

That’s because after the tax break was scuttled, Deal signed an executive order to temporarily suspend the collection of local sales taxes on jet fuel. And state law requires the General Assembly to take up executive orders signed by the governor since the previous session when lawmakers reconvene.

Read more: Deal calls Georgia legislators into session over hurricane – and Delta

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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