In the elections, politicians promised jobs.
When Amazon announced plans for a distribution facility in Lexington County, it meant 12-hundred and fifty full-time jobs and hundreds of part-time jobs.
Not only that, but millions of tax dollars for our schools.
South Carolina promised Amazon it would work to make this happen.
But Wal-Mart and other retail giants are trying to force the state to break its promise and make Amazon collect taxes from South Carolina customers. The courts say that’s wrong. If Walmart gets its way, Amazon has said that it would have no choice but to leave.
This isn’t about online sales taxes. That’s for Congress to decide.
It’s about paychecks and healthcare benefits families. Property taxes for schools. And purchasing power for small business.
Call your legislator and Governor Haley now. Ask them to keep South Carolina’s promise to Amazon by extending the Job Creation Act. Say yes to jobs. No to Wal-Mart.
And here’s audio for the second, and that script as well:
The Upstate has BMW and the Low Country Boeing.
Now it’s our turn with Amazon.
Forbes calls Amazon the number one company in America for customer service.
Fortune listed Amazon as one of the world’s most admired companies.
We NEED one of America’s best companies working with one of America’s best regions to grow and prosper.
Call your legislators and Governor Haley. Tell them to pass the Amazon bill because 1200 jobs with benefits are exactly what we need.
Paid for by Save Our Lexington Jobs.
As you see from that first item, a large part of the case being made is that the opposition is Walmart. And indeed, it is a big liability for opponents of Amazon getting the break it seeks — and a huge irony as well. The anti-break faction paints itself as being all about “main street” — and we all know that Walmart has done more to hurt ol’ Mom and Pop than anyone. Which is why that side is quick to point to local business allies.
Both sides are playing on emotion, of course — fairness vs. mean ol’ Walmart. That’s because this is a political battle.
Which is why one seems out of place when one cites dry policy justifications, as my friends at The State did. They were right, of course: we need to be moving TOWARD collecting taxes on online purchases, not away from it. That’s the big picture. Unfortunately, when you’re looking at that many anticipated jobs going away, that “big picture” can seem awfully abstract.
That’s why I get somewhat uncomfortable defending the position that is, in the abstract, completely right. Like when I was talking with Mike Briggs of the Central SC Alliance this morning at breakfast.
To Mike, Amazon was promised this break — which is really about reinstituting a break that existed in state law before. To me, the idea that anyone could consider anything that depended upon action by the SC General Assembly as a promise seems far-fetched. Perhaps legislatures act more predictably in other states where Amazon does business, but they certainly don’t here. A “promise” made by Mark Sanford (who’s he?) to TRY to get something enacted hardly seems binding on anyone currently in office. YES, it could indeed make the job of economic development in the future harder, to the extent that other prospects also see this as having been a promise. But do you really do something you think is bad policy because of that? Maybe you do, if you need the jobs badly enough…
Mike’s stronger point is that this distribution center is hardly the kind of “nexus” that was anticipated in the case that set national precedent on whether businesses were required to collect such taxes. He argues that it was about storefronts, not about administrative facilities. He may be right.
My response is that what we need is national law that would require Web businesses to collect sales taxes regardless of whether they have a local precedent. Web businesses have enough of a competitive advantage over bricks-and-mortar businesses that provide jobs (and, ahem, buy advertising) in our local communities. Government should not allow them another.
Yeah, I get it — that’s NOT the law now. But apparently, current law DOES hold that Amazon would have to collect the taxes once its facility is built. And granting a specific break to Amazon on this would be a move in the direction AWAY from the kind of law we should have, nationally.
Yeah, I know. Such dry policy considerations about laws we OUGHT to have are cold comfort to someone who was counting on getting a job at Amazon. And I respect that.
Which is why I’m trying to give as much exposure as I can to the pro-Amazon argument. So my readers have all the ammo they need to disagree with me, if they are so inclined. Hey, I try to do that all the time, but in this case I feel particularly obliged.
In that spirit, I call your attention to one other item from the pro-Amazon campaign — this op-ed piece in the Charleston paper, by Lewis F. Gossett, president and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance. An excerpt:
Debate about extending the Jobs Creation Act for Amazon goes far beyond the Midlands, which stands to gain 1,200 full-time jobs with benefits, hundreds of seasonal jobs, and economic investment nearing $100 million.
How the General Assembly and governor handle this project will affect every county’s ability to compete in the global economy for jobs and investment. If they fail to simply extend a tax provision that has existed for five years, leaving Amazon no choice but to go somewhere else, every state in the nation will have the same message for job creators large and small: If South Carolina will break its word to a world-class company like Amazon, it will do it to you.
Decades of work to make us a global player, from Carroll Campbell to Gov. Haley, and heroic efforts by the General Assembly to make our laws business-friendly will be compromised by a broken promise.
Make no mistake, the outgoing administration promised Amazon reinstatement of a just-expired law that did not require online retailers to collect sales taxes from South Carolina customers. Secretary of Commerce Robert M. Hitt has said so.
Detractors can parse language in the formal agreement all they want, but the fact is that every major deal between the state and private companies contains a lot of formal language, as well as verbal agreements and handshakes. Company officials from well-publicized large projects in the Upstate and in the Charleston area also trusted state leaders to get incentive packages approved by governments at all levels. And it is true for Amazon…
It’s a tough issue. And I find myself on the less-comfortable side of it.