The Latest: Governor bemoans 'squabble' over Delta, NRA

FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle speaks during a memorial ceremony on the first day of the legislative session at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Cagle on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, threatened to prevent Delta Air Lines from getting a lucrative tax cut after the company ended its discount program with the National Rifle Association. Cagle, president of the state Senate and a leading candidate to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, tweeted that he would use his position to kill a proposed sales tax exemption on jet fuel. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

ATLANTA — The Latest on Delta Air Lines' decision to cut business ties with the National Rifle Association (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

Georgia's governor is criticizing what he calls an "unbecoming squabble" after fellow Republicans vowed to punish Delta Air Lines for breaking business ties with the National Rifle Association.

Gov. Nathan Deal broke his silence Wednesday on the controversy that has pitted gun-rights supporters at the state Capitol against one of Georgia's largest employers. At a news conference he said an underlying tax bill was "put at risk by the types of antics that tend to plague election years."

Deal said he plans to sign the broader tax bill, even after Senate Republicans moved to kill a tax break on jet fuel that would primarily benefit Delta. He said he will pursue the tax break separately.

Deal sought to assure businesses that Georgia "is a welcoming state, the epitome of Southern hospitality."

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3:40 p.m.

A proposed jet fuel tax break that had been in Georgia Republicans' crosshairs ever since Delta Air Lines severed ties with the National Rifle Association has been stripped from a larger tax-cut package.

By a non-unanimous voice vote, the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday passed a sweeping tax cut proposal that no longer includes a lucrative sales tax exemption on jet fuel.

The decision comes two days after Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tweeted that he would "kill" any tax legislation benefiting Delta unless the airline restores its business partnership with the NRA.

The measure awaits Senate debate.

The bill had passed the House last week with the jet fuel exemption included. If the amended measure passes the Senate, the jet fuel proposal could still be added back in a conference committee.

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12:50 p.m.

A Democratic candidate for the Georgia governor's office says the state's lieutenant governor may have broken anti-corruption laws when he threatened to block a proposed airline tax cut after Delta Air Lines ended its travel discount program with the National Rifle Association.

In a Wednesday letter, Stacey Evans urged Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to investigate Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's recent tweet in which Cagle said he would "kill" tax legislation benefiting Delta unless the airline reverses its stance.

Evans says Cagle may have broken bribery, extortion and ethics laws. She says Cagle stands to benefit economically from the threat as a member of the NRA. She also says Cagle's campaign for governor could also benefit.

Cagle's spokesman declined comment. The Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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11 a.m.

Georgia's lieutenant governor took to the Fox News Channel to defend his controversial threat to block a proposed sales tax exemption on jet fuel unless Delta Air Lines restores the travel discount it had offered to members of the National Rifle Association.

Appearing on "Fox & Friends" Wednesday morning, Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Delta had taken "punitive" action against defenders of the Second Amendment and was unfairly targeting "law-abiding gun owners."

Cagle and other Republicans who are running to be the state's next governor have been united in pushing back against Delta's stance.

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Tuesday that Delta was welcome to move to his state.

Cagle scoffed at the notion that the Atlanta-based airline would relocate there, arguing that Georgia offers the most business-friendly policies in the nation.

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12 a.m.:

One of Georgia's largest employers is taking heat from Republican officials for a business decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association.

Threats from GOP Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Republicans running to become Georgia's next governor are jeopardizing an exemption from sales taxes on jet fuel sought by Delta Air Lines.

Republican state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler said Tuesday that officials were working behind the scenes to resolve the dispute that erupted when Delta announced it would no longer offer discounted rates to NRA members.

GOP Gov. Nathan Deal is serving his last year in office. He refrained from commenting publicly on the rift Tuesday. Deal in the past has opposed social conservatives in his own party on issues the governor felt could threaten Georgia's business-friendly reputation.

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