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Trade group to speak out against tax incentives to lure Amazon

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Luring Amazon’s vaunted HQ2 facility to New Jersey may not be worth the cost, says a senior executive at one of the state’s business trade groups.

In testimony to be made next week at a joint hearing before the state Senate’s Budget & Appropriations Committee and the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, Jon Whiten, a vice president of the trade organization New Jersey Policy Perspective, will tell lawmakers the state should commit resources towards other critical areas before giving them to Amazon.

“Yes, we all want to bring Amazon’s new headquarters to New Jersey, but like with any other development deal, we must ask: at what cost?” said Whiten in a transcript of his testimony supplied to the media. “Is giving one of the world’s largest corporations, with $136 billion in earnings last year, a dollar-for-dollar tax break for its investment in the state of New Jersey a fair deal to all 9 million residents? Is it a good deal?”

Whiten’s comments will be made as part of a public hearing to evaluate S-3631/A-5340, a bill that proposes to give Amazon up to $7 billion in tax breaks for setting up its “second headquarters” in the state. So far, Camden, Jersey City, Newark, New Brunswick and Trenton have each made their cases to be home to HQ2 in response to the RFP Amazon issued in October.

Whiten however, says the price tag is too steep.

“Why is there not a bill in this lame duck Legislature to invest $2 billion in public transit investments so Amazon’s workers can get in and out of a New Jersey city efficiently, affordably and not in their cars?” he asks. “Why are there not bills moving right now to invest in affordable homes, higher education, workforce development, childcare and education, or any of the other factors and assets that draw leading corporations to New Jersey? Why must we continue to put all of our economic-development eggs in this one inefficient and ineffective basket?”

Whiten also takes shots at the Grow NJ program, a part of the state’s Economic Development Authority, which gives tax incentives every month to lure companies to either move to or stay in New Jersey.

“The state has doubled down on its nearly exclusive use of subsidies to try to spur economic development,” Whiten states. “We just wrapped up our fifth year in a row, in fact, of approving more than $1 billion in these breaks – after 17 years of never crossing that line.

“ … This singular approach has ignored the state’s crucial assets that made New Jersey an economic powerhouse: location in the middle of the world’s largest consumer market, one of the nation’s most highly-educated workforces and thriving communities. Instead we have witnessed the deterioration in NJ Transit, disinvestment in higher education and declining support for our excellent public schools.”

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio

Vince Calio covers health care and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

Mario Marroquin

Mario Marroquin covers real estate. A native of El Salvador, Mario is bilingual in English and Spanish. He graduated from Penn State University and worked in Pennsylvania before moving to New Jersey. His email is mariom@njbiz.com.

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