New Jersey promising billions to get Amazon headquarters

When it comes to the North American competition to attract Amazon's second headquarters, New Jersey has put its cards on the table: Officials have promised up to $7 billion in state and local tax credits.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday signed bipartisan legislation authorizing $5 billion in tax credits to lure Amazon to Newark, the city Christie's administration designated as the state's selection for the would-be headquarters. The city itself is promising another $2 billion in tax breaks.

But while New Jersey has been transparent about the promised incentives, Newark has not answered a request from The Associated Press seeking its formal application and any studies associated with its bid.

More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas, refused requests to release the offers they made to the technology giant. Among the reasons included that it was a "trade secret" or "confidential."

New Jersey's public promises to the online retailer, which has said it would bring up to 50,000 jobs to its new locale, contrasts with many other states' offers, which have remained private.

A records request with New Jersey turned up an analysis from the state Economic Development Authority that showed about a projected $9 billion benefit to the state from the project. Camden County, another contender, posted its bid online.

New Jersey's effort has been mostly in the open, going back to Christie's letter outlining the tax credits while trying to get the candidates in last year's gubernatorial contest to agree to them.

Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, who takes office next week, says he supports Amazon coming to New Jersey but did not explicitly back the tax credit legislation.

Others on the right and left have attacked the tax credits.

Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber sharply criticized the legislation authorizing the credits in a floor speech, calling them a delayed Christmas present for Amazon. Webber called the credits the "height of crony capitalism."

He instead called for lowering costs to business across the board to attract more businesses.

And on the left, the progressive think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective attacked the tax credits as a corporate giveaway and instead said spending on higher education and affordable housing would be a better use of resources.

"Quite simply," said NJPP vice president Jon Whiten, "it is not a good deal."