COLUMBIA, SC – South Carolina legislators have changed their tune. Three weeks after defeating the proposed bill that would give Amazon.com (AMZN) a five-year exemption from collecting taxes on online sales in the state, the SC House of Representatives brought the bill up again Wednesday for a re-vote and it passed easily.
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“We thank the House for voting to bring jobs and investment to South Carolina and we’re grateful to the numerous small businesses, community leaders, and public officials in the Midlands for the ground swell of public support,” Paul Misener, Amazon vice-president of Global Public Policy, told the Associated Press after the re-vote.
Amazon initially declared that it would pull out of South Carolina and not build a distribution center there after the House rejected the deal last month. But the fight to bring Amazon to South Carolina did not die when the bill was killed -- many members of the SC General Assembly continued to rally support for the bill.
On the House floor Wednesday afternoon, Lexington Rep. Kenny Bingham (Rep.) urged legislators to reconsider.
“We better have some explaining to do if we are going to turn away 2,000 jobs with the unemployment rate the way it is,” said Bingham. “It is our responsibility to do the right thing and this particular deal is worthy of our support.”
The “deal” with Amazon.com would be the construction of a distribution center in Lexington that would create at least 2,000 jobs and a capital investment of at least $125 million.
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“There are a lot of people that voted against it. I understand. We didn’t have all the information that we have now, though,” said Bingham.
His testimony was enough to make the majority of the representatives change their vote.
“I did not have all the information when I voted against it. After receiving the information, I understand what we are doing and I support it,” said Democratic Representative John King.
“There were a lot of last-minute promises made by Amazon that were not part of the original deal,” said Alliance for Main Street Fairness Representative, Brian Flynn. “The reason so many of them flip-flopped was the promise made by Amazon for more jobs.”
With the bill now passed in the House, it heads to the Senate for the next step in the approval process.
“I know that we have a lot of senators that are on our side,” said Flynn.
The legislative session ends on June 2, only giving the Senate a limited number of days to pass the bill before it adjourns.
If the bill is passed in the Senate, it will be in the hands of Governor Nikki Haley. Haley, who has been very vocal about her opposition to the tax-break deal, said in a press conference on Wednesday that the fact that Amazon sweetened the deal for South Carolina won’t change her stance on the matter.
But Bingham contradicted her statement just moments later on the House floor.
“Governor Haley told the entire caucus that she would absolutely not veto this bill. She said she would not stand in the way,” said Bingham.
South Carolina is not the only state dealing with Amazon’s push for a sales tax exemption. A similar battle is currently being held in Tennessee.
“This is the bullying tactic they have used in other states to get a sales tax exemption,” said Flynn. “Tax exemption gives them a competitive advantage.”