The Lead

House lawmakers still have questions about Pennsylvania’s Amazon incentives package

By: - February 28, 2019 10:05 am

Pennsylvania didn’t land Amazon’s much-coveted second headquarters, but lawmakers still have questions about the $4.5 billion incentive deal state officials put together.

Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin faced questions from Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-Delaware, on the state’s fiscal goodie bag for the online retail giant during a House Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday.

“Tax incentives are public spending, we are talking about taxpayer’s money,” Krueger said, before asking about the funding source of the $4.5 billion offer.

Davin said the state offered incentives in the form of investments in transit, schools, and technical training funded by taxes on Amazon employees.

“We felt that was probably the most responsible way” to offer an incentive, Davin responded.

The Seattle-based company announced plans in late 2017 to build a second headquarters, with its promised 50,000 jobs and billions in investment dollars. After a flurry of applications from across the U.S. and Canada, Amazon released a short list that included both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

After much jockeying and speculation, Amazon decided to split its second HQ in two, placing one branch in New York City and the other in Northern Virginia.

However, widespread outrage within the Big Apple led Amazon to pull out. The company isn’t planning to reopen its search.

During his budget address, Gov. Tom Wolf said Amazon “cited workforce concerns as a main reason” the state lost HQ2.

At the Wednesday hearing, Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Philadelphia, said a confidential state document gave further reasons why Amazon rejected the Keystone State, which she did not share.

Davin said Pittsburgh’s small size gave Amazon doubts that the city could attract the needed amount of workers. As for Philadelphia, Davin didn’t offer any new insights.

His overall point: “Amazon made two bad decisions.”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.