A day after the city of Charlotte warned American Airlines was on “high alert” over the possibility of losing its aviation fuel tax exemption because of the airline’s opposition to House Bill 2, the N.C. House passed its budget on final reading Thursday – with no mention of the exemption.
The N.C. Senate will consider the budget next week.
On Wednesday, the city’s lobbyist sent an email to Charlotte City Council members about the issue.
“American Airlines is on high alert as it is rumored that an amendment will be filed to eliminate the aviation fuel tax exemption,” wrote Dana Fenton. “There has been increasing speculation recently that such a repeal would be attempted. Many in the NCGA connect such an amendment with the airline’s high profile call for repeal of House Bill 2.”
Fenton said he discussed the issue with an American Airlines government liaison. An American Airlines spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.
It’s possible the airline’s concern came from a media story that explored whether companies could be punished for their objections to HB2.
Earlier this week, a story on WRAL’s website discussed lobbyists’ concerns that lawmakers were pressuring them over their client’s opposition to HB2. The story quoted House majority leader Mike Hager, an HB2 supporter, who sent a Tweet to a lobbyist that said: “Wow I would think from all your negative posts about HB2 that u weren’t a lobbyist and didn’t have to work with the majority.”
The WRAL story said Hager wanted to end state tax breaks for companies such as American Airlines and Google, which have opposed HB2. But he said that is a coincidence, and not related to the controversial law.
American is a major employer in Charlotte, which is its second-busiest hub behind Dallas/Fort Worth. The company operates about 650 flights a day from Charlotte Douglas International Airport – more than 90 percent of the airport’s total – and employs 11,000 people based at the city. Statewide, American employs 14,000.
The company took an early stand against HB2, which among other measures limits legal protections for LGBT individuals. The law was passed in response to a Charlotte ordinance that would have expanded anti-discrimination protections and allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
In March, American put out a statement that said HB2 is discriminatory: “Laws that allow such discrimination go against our fundamental belief of equality and are bad for the economies of the states in which they are enacted.”