Better Choices Coalition Sends Open Letter to Amazon

The Better Choices for New Jersey coalition today sent an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, calling on the company to forego costly economic tax incentives should it choose Newark, New Jersey for its second headquarters. Instead, the letter says, Amazon should locate in Newark because of the state’s educated workforce, transportation hubs, and “prime” quality of life. It goes on to apologize for Governor Chris Christie’s hastily thrown-together proposal, centered on billions of dollars in tax incentives, and calls on Amazon to forgo the proffered incentives so the state can afford to make long-deferred public investments.

Earlier this week, Americans for Prosperity-NJ called out the tax incentive proposal as corporate welfare, with State Director Erica Jedynak saying, “instead of relying on taxpayer-funded subsidies to lure Amazon, Governor Christie should rely on the strengths Newark already offers, like access to ports and freight corridors and its proximity to population centers like New York City and Philadelphia” and creating a consistent and stable climate for businesses to succeed.  While not part of the coalition that sent the letter, AFP-NJ and Better Choices for NJ make similar arguments against the Amazon tax-incentive proposal.

On Monday, AFP-NJ and NJ Policy Perspective will team up in a rare show of joint force at a presser to denounce the proposal.  Assemblyman John Wisniewski is scheduled to join them.  

“The benefits of Amazon locating their second headquarters in New Jersey are clear,” said Analilia
Mejia, Director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance . “Less obvious are the shared costs of
growth associated with building a new corporate campus. New Jersey’s proposal to award Amazon $7
billion in corporate subsidies will make it nearly impossible for the state to accommodate the influx of new jobs and residents to Newark. Billions in corporate tax incentives may be enticing, but foregoing critical public investments is counterproductive for Newark, the state, and Amazon. Any deal to bring Amazon to New Jersey must be mutually beneficial where both the company and state can grow together.”

Today is the deadline for local governments to submit proposals — including tax incentives — to Amazon,
which is looking to establish a second headquarters outside their flagship location in Seattle. When
Amazon first announced the search for the new headquarters, Governor Christie twisted the arms of state legislative leaders to submit a proposal with Newark and the state offering Amazon some $7 billion dollars in potential tax incentives. In the letter, advocates question how the cash-strapped state would afford the incentives and which priorities — like funding for education, infrastructure, and affordable housing — would go begging because of the Amazon incentive package.

“In order to succeed in the long run, Amazon’s new HQ2 needs sound public investments – like efficient
and affordable public transit, new affordable homes, and more — not enormous tax breaks,” said Jon
Whiten, Vice President of New Jersey Policy Perspective. “There’s a critical connection here, because
the bigger the tax breaks, the less money there is for needed public investments. It’s appalling that eight
years into a record-breaking surge in overly generous corporate subsidies, New Jersey’s political leaders
haven’t learned their lesson, and are instead leading this national race to the bottom with $7 billion in tax breaks.”

“We support economic development that is designed to help working families and give our state the ability to meet its obligations. Our people, our location, and our great public schools are the best incentive for any smart business to locate in New Jersey,” said Marie Blistan, President of the New Jersey Education Association.

Jeff Tittel, Director New Jersey Sierra Club, added, “When you look at reasons why companies locate
to a state, it is based on things like location, quality of life, educated workforce, good transportation,
innovation, culture and arts, and recreational opportunities, which are all the things that New Jersey
offers. Among this list of reasons, subsidies are at the bottom. Instead of giving Amazon the key to our
Treasury, we should get them to come to New Jersey because of what we have to offer. Instead of giving
Amazon $7 billion in subsidies, this money would be better spent on improving our schools, fixing our
transportation infrastructure, and cleaning up our parks and environment, while enhancing our culture.
This would be a better way to attract Amazon.”

“Amazon is welcome to bring safe, secure jobs that pay a living wage to New Jersey, but we hope they
make a decision based on what is good for both their employees and the community in which they wish to locate, not because of tax breaks that the state cannot afford,” said Dan Fatton, Director of Work
Environment Council.

“There’s no winners in a race to the bottom but it’s a win win for Amazon and the home for their second
HQ if the decision is based on highways, airports, seaports, mass transit, K-12 and higher education,
history, natural resources, urban development, diversity, talent and potential rather than ripping off
taxpayers. It sounds like Mr. Bezos gets that and if he does, we like New Jersey’s chances,” said David
Pringle, NJ Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action.

To read the full letter go here: Better Choices Open Letter to Amazon.

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