A year after losing Georgia tax break, Delta could recover some of it

Less than a year after lawmakers stripped Delta Air Lines of a lucrative tax break on the purchase of jet fuel, a top House member wants to give at least part of it back.

House Majority Whip Matt Ramsey has introduced House Bill 898, which would exempt 20 percent of fuel used in flights from Georgia to another state and all of the fuel used for in-state flights.

The bill would apply to any airline that “provides regularly schedule flights for the transportation of passengers,” but only for flights out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. That’s because the bill defines “qualifying airport” as one that has had more than 750,000 takeoffs and landings in a calendar year.

Ramsey represents Peachtree City, where many Delta executives and pilots live. He said he has yet to receive an official estimate of the bill’s cost to the state. He said he expects “this change in taxing method would be less of a fiscal impact to the state than the old exemption we eliminated last year.”

It is consistent with other parts of state law, he said. For example, fuel sold at state ports to ships is exempt if it’s consumed outside the state.

The bill also makes the state compliant with federal law on how taxes on jet fuel are used. The Federal Aviation Authority requires taxes on jet fuel to be spent on “aviation purposes.” The agency has begun to crack down on noncompliant states, and Ramsey’s bill would make the state follow federal requirements.

The General Assembly in 2015 eliminated the tax credit, which exempted airlines based in the state from paying sales taxes on fuel purchases. It was expected to generate $23 million a year. The tax credit first passed in 2005 when Delta, one of the state’s largest private employers, was in financial trouble. It was made permanent in 2012.

But Delta CEO Richard Anderson angered some lawmakers last year when he publicly challenged them to raise other taxes to help pay for new roads and bridges. Anderson said this week that he will retire in May.