Maria Saporta is upset. She’s upset that the Legislature removed a tax exemption airlines, like Atlanta based Delta, receive on the purchase of jet fuel.
No one company and no one executive was treated more disrespectfully during the 2015 legislative session than Delta and Anderson.
He had the audacity to speak his mind about what he thought was in the best interest of Georgia’s economic future.
As the 2014 chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Anderson felt obligated – as have our best business leaders have over the past many decades – to speak out for inclusion.
In the 1960s, Atlanta business leaders spoke out for tolerance and acceptance of racial integration.
And in today’s environment, Anderson urged the state to be welcoming to people from all over the world by having a less restrictive immigration policy and to steer away from social legislation – the religious freedom bill – that could be seen as discriminating against gays and lesbians.
Both those positions would make Georgia more economically competitive.
And as part of his swan song as Chamber chair, Anderson told state legislators they must be willing to raise taxes to meet the transportation infrastructure needs in the state.
(Guess what, that’s what they ended up doing – but never mind the facts).
Saporta goes on to say that Rep. Earl Ehrhart should be defeated for introducing legislation to end the jet fuel tax exemption. Ehrhart’s version of the legislation didn’t pass, but Saporta stills thinks he should be defeated. She does not think however, that those who supported the legislation that actually took away Delta’s tax credit should be defeated or taken to task.
Let’s set aside hurt feelings and look at this issue in a different light.
When Delta was in bankruptcy the sales tax on jet fuel was removed in order to help them. When I came to the Legislature in 2011, we voted to renew the exemption and phase it out over three years. When the exemption expired, it was renewed and made permanent.
As you all know, this year the need for more transportation funding was moved to the top of the priority list. Many people, myself included, thought we should look at removing special tax exemptions and appropriate that money to infrastructure. To that end, I co-sponsored Rep. Chuck Martin’s bill to end the electric vehicle tax credit and Rep. Ehrhart’s bill to end the jet fuel tax exemption. I also voted against a number of new tax exemptions, such as exemptions for historic districts, zoos, amusement parks, and the building material tax credit Jessica mentioned. It doesn’t seem fair to me for the Legislature to hand out special tax credits and exemptions for some, while at the same time raising the excise tax on motor fuel. Indeed, ending the electric vehicle tax credit and the jet fuel sales tax exemption were included in the final version of the transportation funding act. I wish the bill had ended many more special exemptions the state hands out. For that and other reasons, I voted against the transportation funding bill.
Saporta also complains that the tax on jet fuel will not be spent on transportation. True, jet fuel sales taxes are not put into a dedicated fund like excise taxes on motor fuel, but the state spends other money on airport maintenance which after three years, as specified in the transportation fund act bill, can be then used for transportation through the appropriations process.
I didn’t take it personally when Anderson (joined by other CEO’s and Chambers of Commerce) said that folks like me who support the religious freedom bills were promoting bigoty. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if he thinks that about me he is wrong.
Delta is universally recognized as a valuable company to Georgia. Removing a special sales tax exemption it enjoys is not a slap in the face, nor should it be perceived as one.