March 1 (UPI) -- Georgia lawmakers passed a tax overhaul bill Thursday after cutting a tax exemption that would benefit Delta Airlines.
House Bill 918, which includes the first income tax cut in state history, passed Georgia's Senate by a vote of 44-10 and its House by a vote of 135-24.
"What is important is not that [tax break] any more but that Georgians are going to get their tax relief and we couldn't let that fall victim to everything that was going on with Delta," Republican House Speaker David Ralston said.
Georgia's Senate Rules Committee voted to strike a part of the bill that would have eliminated the state's tax on jet fuels, resulting in a $50 million tax break for Delta Airlines after the company decided to cut a discount program for National Rifle Association members.
After Delta's decision, Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said he would "kill" any legislation benefitting Delta.
Gov. Nathan Deal supported the jet fuel tax break, but said he would sign the bill without it, as he couldn't veto a measure that also amounted to a sweeping tax cut for residents.
Deal also said he was committed to "finding a pathway forward" for the Delta tax break, but Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the state should instead reject the perk for airlines in favor of creating a sales tax holiday for buyers of guns, ammunition, holsters and safes where guns can be stored.
Republican candidate for governor Sen. Michael Williams commended his fellow lawmakers as they "stood strong" against pressure to allow the jet fuel tax break to pass.
Democrats, including Sen. Steve Henson, argued cutting the tax break could make it difficult for Delta to compete with other airlines and possibly hinder the state's ability to attract other businesses.
"Unfortunately, we're looking at political gamesmanship, and trying to send ultraconservative messages for the Republican primary," Henson said. "I think it does not enhance our chances to get Amazon."