New Jersey $7B Bid for Amazon Protested From Left, Right

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By John Herzfeld

A $7 billion tax incentive offer by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to entice Amazon.com Inc.'s second headquarters into the state has drawn protests by advocacy groups from both sides of the political spectrum.

The liberal-leaning think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective and conservative group Americans for Prosperity-New Jersey have united in objecting to the tax-break plan. The groups joined a New Jersey legislative leader, Deputy Assembly Speaker John Wisniewski (D), in a news conference Oct. 23, a week after Christie unveiled the 10-year plan for state and local tax breaks in support of the bid by Newark, N.J., for the Amazon HQ2 project.

A representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of conservative state legislators and stakeholders that drafts model legislation for statehouses across the U.S., also joined the groups at the conference.

The groups “don’t agree on much when it comes to tax and economic policy, but we are in absolute agreement that offering $7 billion in tax breaks to a single corporation is terrible policy and a big step in the wrong direction,” said Jon Whiten, NJPP vice president, in a statement.

Amazon’s HQ2 project has lured 238 proposals from cities and regions extending across 54 states, provinces, districts and territories in North America, according to the company.

Urging Legislative Fight

Whiten called for the Legislature to resist a Christie proposal in a post-election lame duck session to expand the state tax incentive program to accommodate the Newark bid. The state has already approved $8 billion in tax breaks for companies since 2010, NJPP said.

“While the proposal would provide good jobs in the region, it also robs the state of the very revenue needed to address the consequences of such growth and development,” Wisniewski said in a statement.

Pointing to mass transit and women’s health as examples of other spending needs, he questioned whether the state could “afford $7 billion in subsidies for Amazon, one of the world’s most successful businesses.”

Anti-Tax Slant

The ALEC representative, legislative analyst Thurston Powers, took an anti-tax stance toward the state’s Amazon bid.

“Targeted tax credits and carve-outs benefit the politically connected at the expense of other taxpayers,” he said in a statement. Higher tax rates “imposed on everyone else” to support “this $7 billion public relations stunt,” he said, would cost jobs and drive away businesses.

Powers called for major reform of the state tax code to make it “as broad and as flat as possible,” adding that “reducing the cost of doing business in New Jersey could help all businesses and individuals.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bna.com

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

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