When legislators keep their eye on the ball, they often hit home runs. Such is the case with Amazon.com’s plan to bring 2,700 new full-time jobs — and another 4,000 seasonal jobs — to Tennessee by both expanding existing fulfillment centers and building new ones. With 1 out of every 10 Tennesseans unemployed, this would seem to be just what the doctor ordered.
The full-time jobs come with good benefits and opportunities to advance through the ranks of one of the best companies in America. Amazon has consistently cited Tennessee’s friendly business climate, support from state leaders and outstanding workforce as reasons to come here and grow here.
We need to forge and cultivate more relationships like the one we have with Amazon so we can attract more companies and ensure that every Tennessean who wants a good job has a good job. The last thing we should do — especially in times of economic difficulty — is anything that would discourage good companies from coming to Tennessee.
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that states cannot collect sales taxes from Internet-based companies. The attempt to overturn a clear decision was unwarranted and jeopardized the reputation of our state. We have a strong track record of welcoming companies and keeping our commitments to them.
This legislation infringed on that reputation of prosperity. Other companies that would normally choose to locate here (and are looking at us right now) would not have looked favorably upon us if we had broken our word and not honored our agreement.
It is unfortunate that some people in government look to raise revenue any way they can instead of providing wise and responsible leadership for the people. Fortunately, wise and responsible leadership prevailed in the actions of Rep. Sargent.
Simply stated, the more Tennesseans who have a good-paying, full-time job, the more people you have paying taxes to help fund government services. If people aren’t employed, everyone loses.
If my colleagues in the Legislature thought Amazon was bluffing — they were not — just look across the border at South Carolina. A few weeks ago, legislators there denied Amazon an exemption for collecting sales taxes that had been agreed to in the past. Amazon pulled up stakes and left, even though it had already begun construction on a distribution center that would create more than 1,200 jobs there.
Now, lo and behold, the lawmakers there don’t think it was such a great idea to lose those jobs, and they voted Wednesday to reverse their decision in an attempt to draw Amazon back to their state. But, there are no guarantees once a state burns a private company that badly.
There was no reason for Tennessee to go down that same road this year or next year. Amazon has been here, likes it here and wants to grow here — all the while employing more of our people and helping our economy bounce back.
Bottom line: It was ridiculous in the current session and will be just as ridiculous in the next session for any legislator to stand in the way of an agreement to bring in a company that stands to benefit all of Tennessee.
Here’s my advice for lawmakers: In this slow economic recovery, I would hate to be known as the legislator who pulled (or intends to pull) the rug out from under a company bringing thousands of jobs to our state.
(Editor’s Note: Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, represents the 22nd Legislative District in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.)