Newark Makes Amazon Shortlist, Rejects Records Request for 'HQ2' Bid

"Winning" this race to the bottom would come with a steep price tag.

Published on Jan 18, 2018 in Tax and Budget

We’re glad to see Newark on Amazon’s short list for its new headquarters, as we’ve said all along that New Jersey’s largest city would make a prime location for the company’s HQ2 project. But we remain wary of the steep price tag for taxpayers that state and local lawmakers have already put on this project. By putting at least $5 billion, and potentially several billion dollars more, in taxpayer dollars on the table so early in the game, New Jersey has ensured that is returns will be minimized if Amazon were to ultimately choose the state.

For New Jersey’s economy to be truly competitive and strong, the state needs to get back to basics: investing in the assets that give us an edge. Whether that’s ensuring NJ Transit is reliable and affordable, strengthening the state’s public colleges and universities, or fostering smart, dense growth in walkable downtowns with more affordable places to live, these are the policy solutions New Jersey should have prioritized in its efforts to woo Amazon. Merely blowing the lid off already out-of-control corporate tax break policies comes at a hefty price tag for New Jersey’s future.

Meanwhile, the city of Newark on Friday denied a public records request for its bid aimed at luring Amazon’s second headquarters to the city, suggesting that doing so would “provide competing cities with an advantage in the competition” to secure the Amazon project. It inexplicably took the city nearly 11 weeks to reject the records request, which was filed by New Jersey Policy Perspective on October 30 of last year.

This rejection is despite the fact that an estimated $2 billion in Newark city taxpayer dollars, and at least $3 billion in state taxpayer dollars, are being offered as bait to lure Amazon’s “HQ2” in this expensive race to the bottom.

Across the country, cities and states are hiding behind a variety of legal barriers in order to keep their subsidy-fueled bids for Amazon’s new headquarters secret. In New Jersey, with so much taxpayer money at stake, lawmakers and economic-development officials should be erring on the side of transparency and open government, not legal technicalities.