Click on the link below to check out the latest corporate sweetheart idea for robbing the state treasury – and the public schools. According to this item in the Austin AmericanStatesman, state officials are negotiating a deal with Amazon.com to grant Amazon a four and onehalf year exemption from collecting sales taxes on online sales in exchange for the online giant’s promise to bring more than 5,000 jobs and $300 million in capital investments to Texas over the next three years. The language may become part of Senate Bill 1, a fiscal matters bill in a special session conference committee.
Let’s do some math.
Comptroller Susan Combs has estimated the state loses $600 million a year from untaxed online sales. Not all of that is from Amazon, but if Amazon gets some corporate welfare (that’s what this is), other online companies are going to have their hands out.
The same folks who are considering this deal – the governor and legislative leaders – have approved a new state budget that already cuts $4 billion from public school finance formulas and will leave the 2013 session of the Legislature with a multibilliondollar shortfall in school funding.
Instead of giving up another big chunk of money, the state should be clamping down on online sales. Some $600 million would pay the annual salaries of about 12,000 school teachers, many of whom have lost – or will soon lose – their jobs under the new state budget. (The 12,000 estimate is based on the average teacher salary in Texas of $48,000.)
Some of those teachers, I guess, could end up with jobs with Amazon, if the retailer delivers. And, maybe a few of those jobs would even be something more challenging – and financially rewarding – than taking orders and packing boxes.
Traditional retailers should be up in arms over this proposal.
This is the time for state government to be developing an adequate, broadbased tax structure, not eroding an inadequate tax base for pieinthesky economic development promises that may or may not ever be delivered.