Led by Republicans, the Georgia House voted to strip the firm of the break that’s worth tens of millions of dollars per year. The Senate didn’t take up the measure before it adjourned.
“It was very disappointing,” House Speaker Rep. David Ralston, a Republican, said of Delta CEO Ed Bastian’s comment on the voting laws earlier this week, according to local media reports. “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You’ve got to keep that in mind sometimes.”
The final vote in the state House was 97–73.
“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie,” Bastian said in a statement of the Georgia voting bill. “Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”
Bastian added that Delta “joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill.”
“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” he said.
Coca-Cola chief executive James Quincey also described the measure as a “step backward,” during a TV interview.
Bastian’s and Quincey’s comments come in the midst of a Democrat-led pressure campaign against state Republican leaders. A number of celebrities—including actor Mark Hamill and director James Mangold—wrote on social media that they would boycott filming in Georgia after the passage of the measure. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden weighed in on the issue and told reporters he would “strongly support” moving the Major League Baseball All-Star Game from Atlanta.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said the bill is being misrepresented in the press and by Delta’s CEO.
“Throughout the legislative process, we spoke directly with Delta representatives numerous times,” Kemp said in a statement, adding that the same corporations were involved in the law’s development. “Today’s statement … stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists.”
It’s not the first time Delta, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, has commented on laws or social issues. Previously, Delta attacked the National Rifle Association, following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, several years ago. During that public spat, Republicans eliminated a tax break for the firm.
Delta is the state’s largest private employer, with more than 30,000 employees statewide.