Lawmakers take symbolic swipe at Delta

A handful of state lawmakers want to revoke a permanent tax break for Delta Air Lines, which posted a $2.7 billion profit for 2013.

Their bill was introduced after the deadline for such legislation, but the intent may have been more symbolic than economic.

Three sponsors are from Paulding County, where a number of local officials resent Delta’s vocal opposition to their plan to commercialize the county’s tiny airport.

“I told them to shut up and leave Paulding County alone,” said Rep. Howard Maxwell, R-Dallas, one of the bill’s sponsors. “They don’t have any business in what [Paulding is] doing.”

Three lawsuits were filed by residents who oppose airport commercialization, and the plan has been delayed until at least later this year.

Maxwell said the aim of the bill, whose lead sponsor is Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is to quit giving money to a profitable company.

“Why should we be subsidizing somebody that made $2.7 billion?” Maxwell asked. “I didn’t want it to be symbolic but that’s what it ended up being.”

Delta declined to comment.

The tax break exempts Delta from tax on fuel it buys here and reduces the state’s revenue by about $22 million, according to Maxwell.

Delta and Delta Connection make up about 80 percent of the flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International, the world’s busiest airport. The tax break first passed in 2005, when Delta was ailing financially. Lawmakers made it permanent in 2012, when Delta made a $1.6 billion profit.

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