Friday, April 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Taxpayer giveaway for Amazon

The state and Hillsborough County are poised to reward an out-of-state corporate giant that has avoided collecting Florida sales tax for more than a decade by offering it millions in tax incentives to finally hire Floridians and contribute to the state's economy. Gov. Rick Scott tried to sell his tentative agreement with Amazon on Thursday as another sign that he is improving Florida's economy. Don't be fooled. Amazon is once again getting just what it wants — access to the Florida market at less cost than competitors who have been here for decades.

Under the deal outlined by Scott, Amazon would spend about $300 million building one or more distribution centers in the state and employing 3,000 Floridians. One potential site would include 1,000 jobs at a warehouse in Ruskin in Hillsborough County. And the company could no longer benefit from a federal loophole to justify failing to collect sales taxes from Florida customers. It would have to collect sales taxes in Florida once it opened its first warehouse here, no later than 2016.

If the negotiations had stopped there, it would have meant the state had finally leveled the playing field for the state's traditional merchants against at least one major Internet competitor. Growing e-commerce sales have cost the state an estimated $450 million annually in lost revenue, shifting the cost of state and local government disproportionately onto customers who support Florida retailers.

But the state's deal with Amazon doesn't stop there. Hillsborough County commissioners are expected to consider next week whether to grant Amazon $6.6 million in taxpayer incentives to locate there. And Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, is working with other communities to further sweeten the pot.

Such a traditional pay-them-to-come mentality sells Florida's negotiation position short and is just further evidence how Republican leaders' antitax posture has undercut the state's leverage and made taxes less fair. Just last month, Scott said he had walked away from talks with Amazon and claimed that taxing the online sale of a book to a Florida customer — just as it's taxed in a Florida bookstore — was somehow a tax increase.

Amazon needs facilities in the nation's fourth largest state as it moves to a business model focused on quicker delivery. Earlier this month, for example, Tampa Bay Times' Bob Trigaux wrote about how the online merchant was exploring grocery delivery. It can't do that in Florida without building facilities here, which would also require collecting sales tax.

Amazon has accepted that the political winds have shifted on taxing e-commerce. The company now collects sales tax in nine states — including California, New York and Texas — and will do so in the near future in several others, including Virginia and New Jersey. It is also supporting the Main Street Fairness Act. Approved by the U.S. Senate in May, it would require all online merchants with $1 million or more in annual revenue to collect sales taxes.

Yet in Florida, shortsighted Republican leaders have failed to consider how to modernize a tax system so heavily dependent on sales tax revenue. Scott may have struck a deal that could bring 3,000 jobs, but he did it on the backs of taxpayers. Amazon, once again, is the big winner.

Comments
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18