Thursday’s first editorial weighs in on the continuing battle over whether to subsidize Amazon’s move into South Carolina:
It may be hard at first to see how the battle over Amazon’s distribution center in Lexington County concerns those of us on the Grand Strand all that much. After all, none of the 2,000 jobs created would be based here, and we’d see none of the $125 million investment by the online giant.
But the ripples of the deal will touch us nonetheless, as became clear after the legislature’s initial rejection of incentives for the company. Rep. Tracy Edge of North Myrtle Beach told The State newspaper that several members of the caucus began sharing complaints from their local leaders that prospects were stopping or delaying investments after Amazon’s deal, brokered by Gov. Mark Sanford’s administration last year, was turned away.
“The stories and messages of lost opportunities were collectively what changed people’s votes,” Edge told the newspaper, explaining why five of Horry County’s six House members reversed their positions since the initial roll call on April 27.
Rep. Thad Viers was the one House member who still voted to reject the incentives, despite a move by Amazon to sweeten the deal, promising an additional 751 jobs and $35 million more in investment. Viers called it a “blatant violation of free market principles” in a letter published in The Sun News.
The Senate is poised to vote on the deal this week in an accelerated process designed to finish it before the session ends, and Gov. Nikki Haley has signaled she doesn’t agree with the bill, but won’t veto it if it comes to her.
It’s not clear if the legislature blundered its way into a better deal or played a smart, high stakes game of chicken to force Amazon to up the ante. Either way, we’re pleased with the outcome thus far. The terms of the deal show some common sense limits, including the firm five-year expiration date on the incentives and the strict requirements that Amazon must meet or lose its exemptions.
In a perfect world the state would not have to entice companies with tax breaks and incentives. But we don’t live in that world, and Amazon wasn’t the first nor likely the last business to receive a legalized kickback for building South Carolina’s economy. In fact, we dearly hope it’s not the last business to consider moving to the state, and hopefully the Grand Strand.