Sen. Nikki Setzler says saving the Amazon deal will save up to four thousand jobs for the Midlands. He acknowledges that resolving the issue in the Senate will be a tough task.
The Democratic senator represents the Midlands area in which the mega-distributer wants to locate. That’s if the state keeps its end of a deal to exempt Amazon from collecting sales taxes in South Carolina.
The executive branch of the government in December of 2010, the then- sitting governor and the Commerce Department made a commitment to Amazon who made a like commitment to provide 1,250 fulltime jobs with fulltime health insurance, an annual payroll of $60 million and an investment of $90 million, and it says “best faith” efforts will be used and that’s what’s trying to be done.
Setzler’s bill passed Senate Judiciary virtually intact giving Amazon what he calls a five-year “safe haven” from collecting SC sales taxes. He says he did not know about the agreement when it was made:
No member of the Lexington delegation or the Lexington County Council knew anything about this commitment being made, so it got put in our lap, that we had to deal with it without having known about it and weren’t part of the parties that made this agreement. Again, this agreement was made with the executive branch of the government, not the legislative branch. And so it fell our role to either stand up for the word of the state and try to save 3,000 jobs or let it die.
Competing retailers say such a break would give Amazon an unfair advantage over businesses that must, by law, collect the taxes. The governor does not agree with state incentives like this, but the bills sponsor now says he needs her help.
The executive branch made the agreement, the executive branch has a duty and an obligation to be a part of trying to get a law past that does that. I don’t think they have the luxury of sitting and letting just the legislature, I think it’s going to take the effort of the Commerce Secretary who testified yesterday before the Finance Committee, I think it’s going to take major efforts by the General Assembly and I think it needs an effort by the governor.
Setzler says the state’s ability to keep its word impacts future agreements:
Other states are using this transaction against us in other economic development efforts by the state of South Carolina. We’ve got to be sure and protect our economic development in the future, and if nobody makes any effort then we haven’t lived up to our term that’s on the agreement.
Setzler says Amazon will employ people throughout the Midlands counties, not just Lexington.
The bill has been sent to the Senate floor, where it is waiting in line with other bills under debate.