Defending HQ2 Deal, New York Governor Claims State and City 'Gave Amazon Nothing'

by | November 21, 2018

By Geoff Herbert

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is defending the state's tax incentives for an Amazon HQ2 site in Queens after much criticism.

"The New York Post, which is representative of extreme conservatives, says essentially that New York 'gave Amazon $1 billion,'" Cuomo wrote in an op-ed published on the state's website Monday. "Their argument is factually baseless.

"New York State and New York City gave Amazon nothing."

The Empire State is kicking in more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer-funded incentives over the next 10 years for Amazon's second headquarters, which will be split in two locations. The Seattle-based retail giant will create 25,000 jobs each at two HQ2 sites in Long Island City and Alexandria, Virginia, plus 5,000 jobs at a new operations hub in Nashville.

Virginia is offering fewer incentives, reportedly totaling just $573 million, prompting many to wonder if New York "overpaid" for Amazon. The company said the cost per job for New York taxpayers is $48,000, compared to $22,000 for Virginia and $13,000 for Tennessee.

"Amazon, by our current tax structure, would generate approximately $1 billion per year in new revenue," Cuomo said Monday. "Our proposal offered that, when and if those revenues are realized, the government would effectively reduce their $1 billion payment by about $100 million for a net to New York of approximately $900 million. New York doesn't give Amazon $100 million. Amazon gives New York $900 million."

Cuomo, who previously joked he'd change his name to "Amazon Cuomo" to seal the deal, called the agreement "one of the largest, most competitive economic development investments in U.S. history." Amazon received 238 proposals, including from Syracuse and other Upstate NY metro areas, before narrowing the list to 20 in January.

The Democratic governor said other states offered more incentives, such as $7 billion from New Jersey, $8.5 billion from Maryland and $6 billion from Louisiana.

Still, criticism came from the Post, The New York Times, CNN's parent company Warner Media, and the syracuse.com -- The Post-Standard editorial board. Some politicians, including Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), also opposed the "extremely concerning" tax breaks.

"This transaction is a lightning rod for the political rhetoric on both extremes. The extreme conservatives and the socialists both now vehemently oppose 'incentives' for Amazon, which is one of the most profitable companies in the country," Cuomo wrote. "Compounding the situation, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post and Amazon and is a competitor to many interests currently involved in the discussion..."

"As for the local officials who now oppose the project, many of these same individuals signed a letter supporting the application for the same location knowing full well it was a national competition in which states and cities were putting together incentive packages. These same officials voted and authorized the long-standing economic development programs deployed in the Amazon transaction. It is pure political posturing."

(c)2018 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y.