Maryland lawmakers debate a bill for an incentives package to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in the state during an April 4 session of the General Assembly at the State House in Annapolis. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Maryland lawmakers debate a bill for an incentives package to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in the state during an April 4 session of the General Assembly at the State House in Annapolis. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland General Assembly approved Wednesday an estimated $5.6 billion incentive package for Amazon to entice the online retailer to establish its second headquarters in the state.

The House voted 79-59 in favor of the bill, which delegates such as Anne Kaiser of Montgomery County, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said will bring 50,000 jobs to the state, specifically in her jurisdiction.

Delegate Herb McMillan called the tax incentive “an expensive pig in a poke” and corporate welfare for one of the country’s richest companies.

Before McMillan, Anne Arundel County Republican, voted against the plan, he asked his colleagues, “Are you a fiscal watchdog, or a fiscal lapdog?”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan submitted the incentive plan for lawmakers to approve, which he could sign before the General Assembly session ends at midnight Monday.

The bill — “Promoting ext-Raordinary Innovation in Maryland’s Economy (PRIME) Act of 2018” — specifically states the company would provide $10 million annually to the state’s Sunny Day Fund over a 15-year period and more than $5 billion for Montgomery County in incentives and transportation improvements.

The state, income and property tax credits wouldn’t go into effect unless the company moved to Montgomery County, which faces 19 other challengers nationwide, including neighboring D.C.

Amazon, based in Seattle and founded by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, labeled the project “Amazon HQ2” with a $5 million investment in construction.

“HQ2 represents the greatest economic development opportunity in a generation, and today’s action sends a strong signal that Maryland is 100 percent committed to using every resource possible to bring this project home,” said Hogan spokeswoman Shareese Churchill. “This is a great day for Maryland and the governor thanks [Montgomery] County Executive Ike Leggett and legislators of both parties who worked together to get this done.”

Several Prince George’s delegates such as Angela Angel, who voted for the plan, said potential workers not only can move into more affordable housing in the county, but also hire workers who reside in the jurisdiction that borders Montgomery.

“Although the bid is in Montgomery County, just being able to expand the commercial base for a company like Amazon we would be able to reap some benefits,” she said. “Once Amazon comes in, we’ll have housing opportunities and entice other businesses to come into Prince George’s County.”

Delegate Erek Barron, who voted against the Amazon package, said money to pay for school construction, renovation and health care is more important for Marylanders.

“I would think about our priorities such as education and health care before giving a historic incentive package to one of the richest companies in the universe run by one of the richest men in the universe,” he said. “[Amazon] doesn’t need it. We do.”

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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