New Study Assails Secrecy Surrounding Amazon Headquarters Bids

We all know that Newark is one of the 20 finalists in the running to be selected as the location for Amazon’s second headquarters and that, to lure the company, the state and city are offering up to $7 billion in tax credits and other incentives.

The reason we know that much is because New Jersey and Newark both passed legislation on the subject, exposing the process to public scrutiny.  But the bid Newark submitted to Amazon has not been disclosed. And though huge amounts of public resources are also involved in the bids of the most of the other 19 contenders, including  Chicago Dallas, Miami, and New York City, even less is known about most of those other bids.

The troubling secrecy surrounding the high stakes process is the subject of a study released on April 3 by Good Jobs First, a non-profit that focuses on corporate accountability. The title encapsulates the important issues at stake: “Public Auction, Private Dealings: Will Amazon’s HQ2 Veer to Secrecy Create a Missed Opportunity for Inclusive, Accountable Development?

The study states what is known about each bid and notes about Newark’s that the subsidy being offered to Amazon represents about 14 percent of state corporate taxes paid by other businesses for the next two decades.

Good Jobs First has also been compiling a list of the subsidies already enjoyed by Amazon in connection with its distribution facilities, data centers and other operations around the country. Those subsidies, which total an estimated $1.39 billion already, include an existing 2015 subsidy from Newark in the amount of $39,375,000.

A press release accompanying the study quotes author Greg LeRoy, who is also the executive director of Good Jobs First: “Amazon’s HQ2 project can go down in history as a monument to high-tech arrogance and tax-break favoritism. Or it can usher in a new normal in economic development that is inclusive and accountable. It’s up to the 20 governments and to Amazon. Will they seize this terrific opportunity?”

According to its website, Good Jobs First is “a national policy resource center for grassroots groups and public officials, promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families.” It provides “timely, accurate information on best practices in state and local job subsidies, and on the many ties between smart growth and good jobs.”

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