Louisville Fights Disclosure of Amazon HQ2 Tax Incentive Proposal

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By Alex Ebert

The city of Louisville is fighting in a Kentucky court to keep its Amazon HQ2 incentives secret, even though the metro lost out on the $5 billion second headquarters expansion.

Attorneys for the Louisville Metro Government will argue Oct. 15 a state court should pause a court order requiring the city to divulge its incentive package to the local Courier-Journal. Like more than 200 cities across America, Louisville had hoped to coax Amazon.com Inc. with prime real estate and tax incentives.

But instead of coughing up what it would have paid, Louisville is fighting the same open-records battle cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia fought—each claiming that development plans should be kept secret to not compromise the cities’ bargaining positions against competitors. Although courts have ruled for news organizations in other locales, Louisville isn’t relinquishing its incentives.

“We intend to appeal, and the parties will be submitting an agreed order to the court to that end,” Jean Porter, spokesperson for Mayor Greg Fischer (D) told Bloomberg Tax in an Oct. 11 email.

Preliminary or Final Proposal?

The Courier-Journal received a redacted version of the Louisville Metro’s 118-page proposal in February stripped of all economic incentives. But the paper might not have to wait much longer.

The paper’s attorney agreed to a joint request for the lower court to delay release of the document, so long as the government sought an expedited appeal.

That appeal would likely focus on whether the proposal was “final” or “preliminary” under Kentucky’s open records law. The city argued that the proposal was preliminary because it would be further negotiated if Louisville became a finalist. But the court sided with the paper, which argued the proposal was final when Louisville didn’t make the top-20 cut.

The attorney for the Courier-Journal didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Courier-Journal, Inc. v. Louisville/Jefferson Cty. Metro Gov’t, Ky. Cir. Ct., No. 18-CI-1430, Motion for Delayed Enforcement 10/15/18.

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