TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott, who has made job creation his top priority since coming into office, has rejected a proposed deal to bring major Internet retailer Amazon to the state.
After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Scott ultimately said no to a deal that would have led to the construction of at least one Amazon warehouse in the state and brought jobs along with it.
Amazon's arrival in the state, however, would have meant that Floridians would have to pay sales tax on Internet purchases made through the company.
Amazon wanted to defer collecting the state's 6 percent sales tax until February or when its warehouse was open and occupied. The Seattle-based retailer has reached similar arrangements in several other states across the country.
But accepting the deal meant Scott could have been portrayed as being supportive of allowing taxes on Internet purchases shortly before he runs for re-election.
Scott, whose poll numbers remain low, has said in the past he could support only the taxation of Internet purchases if the money were offset by tax cuts elsewhere.
"Gov. Scott does not want to raise taxes in Florida, and we are confident Amazon will invest in our state because of our low-tax, probusiness jobs climate," Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Scott, said in a statement Thursday.
Scott during his time as governor has constantly pushed to use financial incentives backed by taxpayers to lure new companies to the state. Earlier this month, he touted a deal to attract Hertz in a deal that included more than $19 million in state and local incentives in order to bring 700 jobs, many of which would come from another state.
An initial deal pitched by Amazon back in early 2012 called for the construction of two warehouses in Florida and as many as 2,500 jobs. Sellers said that the most recent conversations centered on the construction of one warehouse by 2015. She said a job figure was not mentioned.
Amazon representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Scott's decision also comes at a time Congress has been debating whether to allow states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases their residents make with out-of-state companies. The measure passed the U.S. Senate, but it has been opposed by leading Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. It is not expected to pass the U.S. House.
Currently, Floridians are supposed to pay taxes for online purchases, but there's really no way to enforce the law. The state can't force companies like Amazon to collect the tax unless it has a physical presence such as a warehouse or store.