States seek to lure Delta as Georgia moves forward on threat

Some states are taking advantage of a dispute between Georgia and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines over the company's decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association, urging the airline to relocate.

Governors from Connecticut, New York and Virginia have pitched their states to the airline. A congressman from Ohio and the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, also have reached out to Delta in recent days.

"Hey @delta — Virginia is for lovers and airline hubs. You're welcome here any time," tweeted Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat.

The Republican-controlled Georgia Legislature approved a tax bill Thursday that eliminated the proposal of a fuel tax break that would primarily benefit Delta. Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican, had suggested removing the tax benefit as retribution for Delta's decision after a deadly school shooting in Florida to stop offering discounted fares to NRA members.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, sent Delta CEO Ed Bastian a letter Wednesday, praising him for his "courage standing up to" the NRA following the shooting that left 17 people dead. He then took the opportunity to urge Bastian to consider his state as the new location for Delta's headquarters.

"As I am sure you are well aware, Connecticut is a state where we've put partisanship aside, and passed commonsense gun laws," said Malloy, referring to legislation passed after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. "Our efforts have made Connecticut one of the safest states to live, with one of the lowest rates of firearm deaths in the country."

Georgia lawmakers approved the sweeping tax bill that strips out a jet fuel tax break worth an estimated $38 million annually for airlines. Delta, which has a hub at Hartsfield Jackson Airport, would be the prime beneficiary.

It was unclear whether Delta is seriously considering any of the pitches. A message was left with the airline seeking comment about the offers.

Georgia's Republican governor, Nathan Deal, didn't seem concerned that the company would be enticed to leave.

"I think Delta knows better than that," he said.

Deal, who has said he will sign the tax bill, said a lot of people share the blame for the dispute.

"Delta made a statement or an action that caused this dispute to erupt," the governor said. "I've tried my best to resolve it within the timeframe we had available to us."

Democratic state Sen. Nikema Williams, said it's "unfortunate that such a serious matter is being used as a political volleyball," referring to the spate of deadly school shootings. Williams was a high school senior in 1996 when one of her classmates shot and killed another classmate in the school's parking lot.

"We're the leaders of this state and we need to be coming together for solutions — not bullying corporations who are trying to do the right thing — and take a step in righting the wrong that we have done to our children in this country," she said.


Associated Press Writers Ben Nadler and R.J. Rico in Atlanta contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show the Georgia governor's last name is Deal, not Dean.


This story has been corrected to show that the Georgia Legislature approved a tax bill Thursday that eliminated the proposal of a fuel tax break.