S. E. Williams
When Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, president and CEO of Amazon abruptly announced plans to withdraw from his agreement to build a new corporate headquarters in New York late last month, it reverberated around the nation—after all, there was stiff competition among municipalities across the country for the privilege of having the warehouse giant locate its second headquarters in one of their cities.
The announcement was greeted with exhaustive debates over whether the left wing of the democratic party had scored a victory against big business by raising awareness over the amount of corporate welfare—or, as the politically correct call it, tax incentives—that Amazon was promised in the deal. Those incentives totaled at least three billion dollars.
Some who opposed the warehouse incentives were criticized as naïve. In other words, it was said they failed to understand the complex and sophisticated economic structure of the agreement. Really? I think most people understand enough to know that if a corporation is not paying its fair share of taxes whether today or stretched out over years—something goes un- or underfunded.
It was a reminder that communities must look beyond the quality and quantity of jobs being offered when a big corporation like Amazon competes to put down stakes in your region. Citizens must also examine what the community is giving up in exchange for those jobs—jobs that at times, fall short of what was initially promised.
Recently, Assembly member Jose Medina (D-Riverside) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 485 to provide increased public transparency of warehouse development projects funded using tax payer dollars.
Medina noted how warehouses have grown tremendously in the Inland Empire in recent years. For example, in 2018 nearly 65,000 individuals in the region worked in warehouse jobs. He stressed however, that although “warehouses can be seen as a great job creator and tax revenue generator,” data collected over time paints a different picture about the long-term impact warehouses can have on a community including challenging working conditions, poor benefits, and automation. Also, there is the issue of tax incentives.
Often when cities enter bidding wars to assure a warehouse is built in their community, the tax incentives and other benefits offered a warehouse builder like Amazon, receive little public attention. That must change.
I believe Medina summed it up best when he stated, “If cities are going to spend millions in taxpayer dollars to bring these jobs to their communities, at the very least there should be some assurances that workers will be paid a living wage and have adequate safety protections.”
Medina’s legislation AB 485 will increase transparency so that when such decisions are made, tax payers will be more aware of the promises being made regarding their tax dollars and the long-term implications of those promises.
Medina’s legislation will help us understand and as a result, better control how our current tax dollars are spent, and future tax revenue is assigned. Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.