Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that $3 billion in tax credits should be given to the public, not Amazon — and a new poll shows that nearly half of Americans agree

Getty/Alex WongRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been outspoken about Amazon’s New York HQ2 deal, which has been canceled.
  • Amazon backed out of a deal on February 14 to develop part of its second headquarters, known as HQ2, in New York City in exchange for a total of $US3 billion in tax breaks it would receive over 10 years.
  • The company cited resistance from state and local politicians as the reason behind its rethinking of the deal.
  • A new INSIDER poll revealed that most respondents believe there are better uses for $US3 billion in tax breaks than giving it all to one company for development.
  • The most popular use among respondents, by far, was for the tax breaks to go to residents.
  • It’s an idea that has also been supported by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Amazon stunned onlookers on February 14 when it announced it was cancelling its New York HQ2 project before it ever got off the ground.

The company backed out of a deal to put part of its second headquarters – known as HQ2 – in New York City in exchange for a total of $US3 billion in tax breaks it would receive over 10 years. The company cited resistance from state and local politicians as the reason behind its rethinking of the deal.

A few polls, such as ones by INSIDER, Siena College, and HarrisX (sponsored by Amazon), mostly showed public support for Amazon coming to Queens, but responses were split when specific aspects of the deal – such as the $US3 billion figure – were mentioned.

Read more:

Most Americans want Amazon’s HQ2 to come to their city

A new INSIDER poll conducted on SurveyMonkey Audience may help explain why. The poll asked 1,117 respondents what the best use of $US3 billion in tax credits would be: giving it to one large company to open a large corporate office, to several mid-size companies to open offices, to existing businesses in the area for growth, or to residents in the area to encourage spending.

The style of deal that was negotiated between Amazon and New York – $US3 billion in tax credits for a new large office – carried only about 4% of the vote in the INSIDER poll. It was the least popular of all responses, including “I don’t know,” which earned just over 12% of votes.

By far, the most popular response supported giving tax credits to residents, which took the lion’s share of the vote at more than 45%. Next was giving them to existing businesses, with over 20%. And giving the credits to mid-size companies received 18% of the vote. The poll had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points. Those results held steady regardless of whether the respondent said they lived in an urban, rural, or suburban area.

There were some differences between how more liberal and more conservative respondents would allocate the tax credits, but they did not change the results materially.

Conservative respondents were slightly more game than liberals to give a single large company a $US3 billion welcome mat, but still, only 7% of moderately or very conservative respondents favoured that option.

Tax credits for existing businesses remained flatly popular across the board, with one in five thinking that would be the best option. Moderately or very liberal respondents favoured giving tax credits to residents by a gap of eight percentage points over their conservative counterparts, who favoured giving credits to several new mid-size businesses by five percentage points.

Altogether, though, the issue transcended politics: A small fraction of respondents think the best use of that kind of tax credit is to one major company.

Not even people who strongly supported the Amazon deal seemed to believe that giving tax credits to a major company would be the best overall choice. Later in the survey, we presented the gist of the Amazon arrangement: $US3 billion in tax credits for 25,000 jobs in a new headquarters.

Of those who strongly supported that deal, only 10% thought one major company was the best beneficiary of such a tax credit when presented with other options.

Meanwhile, 40% said residents would be the best recipient, 26% said several mid-size companies, and 19% said existing businesses.

What’s clear is that given the option for giving $US3 billion in tax credits, people would rather see pretty much anything other than a deal that looks similar to the one New York made – and then canceled – with Amazon. That polling supports Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stance that $US3 billion in incentives should be used in other ways.

“It’s fair to ask why we don’t invest the capital for public use, + why we don’t give working people a tax break,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a series of tweets on Tuesday night.

She previously suggested the cash could be put to better use than given in tax credits. The idea was dismissed as “nonsense”by some on Twitter who assumed she didn’t understand how these credits work.

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