Amazon Headquarters Promised $5B in New Jersey Tax Incentives

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By Gerald B. Silverman

New Jersey lawmakers are putting on a full court press to lure the HQ2 project by Amazon.com Inc. by promising some $5 billion in tax incentives.

Gov. Chris Christie (R) and the bipartisan leadership of the state Legislature have pledged their support for a package of tax incentives that would significantly expand the state’s current GROW NJ economic development program.

In addition, both the Democratic candidate for governor, Phillip D. Murphy, and the Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, have pledged their support for a package of incentives to attract the project.

‘Attractive Place for Amazon’

Christie, who can’t run for another term because of term limits, kicked off the public sales pitch with a Sept. 22 letter to Murphy and Guadagno asking for their support.

The four Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and Assembly followed with a Sept. 27 letter pledging to pass legislation that would include $5 billion in tax incentives. The key incentive is $10,000 for each new job, up from the current $5,000-per-job rate, which would total $5 billion if Amazon creates the 50,000 new jobs it has promised.

The bill also would loosen current restrictions and caps, including limits on locations and on multi-phase projects. It would include a provision allowing the company to carry forward tax credits for up to 50 years.

Michele Siekerka, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said “we’re supportive of the Grow NJ program being more flexible and having additional incentives to address the needs of companies, big and small, looking to New Jersey for job creation.”

“We truly believe New Jersey would be an attractive place for Amazon to place HQ2, based on our talent pool and location,” she said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg BNA Sept. 28. “So looking at the opportunity to make us more competitive with these tax incentives is a good thing.”

‘Out of Control’ Incentives

The incentives package is opposed by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal-leaning think tank concerned with economic justice issues.

Gordon MacInnes, president of the organization, said New Jersey would be a good choice for Amazon because of the state’s “bustling cities,” infrastructure, schools, highly educated labor force, and quality of life.

“So-called incentives are a stated factor in Amazon’s decision-making, but they are just one of many,” he said in a Sept. 27 statement. “If state economic-development officials focus narrowly on tax breaks, they will merely be repeating, and making worse, the mistakes New Jersey’s political leaders have been making over and over since the recession hit.”

“Merely blowing the lid off already out-of-control corporate tax break policies won’t work—and is dangerous to New Jersey’s future to boot,” he said.

Several states and cities are raising their hands in the Amazon HQ2 race, including: Delaware; Rhode Island; Austin, Texas; Chicago (see related story, this issue); Detroit; Hartford, Conn.; Memphis, Tennessee; Philadelphia; St. Louis; and Tulsa, Okla.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerald B. Silverman in Albany, N.Y. at GSilverman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer McLoughlin at jmcloughlin@bna.com

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