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BPAA Biweekly State Policy Updates - November 16

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  • The incentive packages that states, cities and counties were offering Amazon to host its second headquarters have been largely veiled in secrecy. But the company's decision to split the HQ, and its 50,000 jobs, between Arlington's Crystal City and Long Island City in Queens has pulled the veil back a bit. To wit: The state of New York will provide $1.2 billion in tax credits and a $325 million capital grant; the company also plans to apply for up to $1 billion in other incentives through NYC programs, POLITICO New York's Dana Rubinstein reported. In Virginia, state and county officials will fork over $573 million in cash grants, the Technology team's Steven Overly reported. Tennessee will provide a $21.7 million tax credit to offset franchise and excise taxes for an "Operations Center of Excellence" in Nashville, the company said in a blog post announcing the deals. The tax incentive offered by New York will come in the form of a refundable tax credit "calculated as a percentage of the salaries Amazon expects to pay employees over the next 10 years, which equates to $48,000 per job for 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000," Amazon said. Arlington's cash grant will come from expected growth in revenue from its hotel room tax. The city will also "dedicate an estimated $28 million based on 12% of future property tax revenues earned from an existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district for on-site infrastructure and open space" in Crystal City, Amazon said.


  • New Jersey Raises Money by Giving Tax Delinquents a Break: "A special two-month tax amnesty launched Thursday for the hundreds of thousands of people and businesses that owe the state of New Jersey money. Qualifying taxpayers can have penalties waived and interest payment cut in half if they settle up before Jan. 15," reports . Lawmakers hope it will raise $200 million. They've tried this before. "A 2014 tax amnesty brought in $75 million from more than 26,000 people and businesses, according to the state Treasury Department. The Assembly Majority Office said the state collected $725 million from a 2009 amnesty and $277 million in 2002."


  • Illinois may the next state to legalize recreational marijuana: House Speaker Michael Madigan says he supports Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker's legalization plan, which Pritzker believes could generate up to $1 billion a year in tax revenue for the cash-strapped state, according to the Associated Press. Madigan, without whose blessing little happens in Illinois, also looks forward to working with fellow Democrat Pritzker on plans for a graduated income tax. As for outgoing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Madigan had little to say: "I'm just happy that he's leaving."


  • Kansas Update: It turns out 2012 tax cuts by former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback cost the state even more than previously thought. That means the recent repeal of the tax cuts will provide more revenue savings than first forecast, reports the Kansas City Business Journal. An analysis by the Kansas Department of Revenue added $300 million to the state's tax receipts for this fiscal year, increasing the total to $7.3 billion.


  • Ballot Initiatives Calling For Tax Hikes to Go Down: Even as they gave Democrats control of the House, voters rejected a string of ballot initiatives calling for tax increases, Bloomberg News reports. "Voters In Maine, Missouri, Colorado, Montana, and South Dakota shot down various measures that would have increased taxes. In Florida, they made it harder for lawmakers to pass tax hikes, something supported by outgoing Republican Governor Rick Scott. North Carolina voters also lowered the maximum possible income-tax rate to 7 percent."
    • Also form the Tax Foundation: Results of 2018 State and Local Tax Ballot Initiatives: See full results here.


  • Nike, Oregon's biggest company, looks to be a big player in the development of the state's tax policies thanks to its support for Democrats' efforts to raise taxes, the Oregonian says. "Big companies go to great lengths to minimize their tax bills. By supporting Democrats' drive for revenue, Nike is in the catbird seat to push for tax policies that would be less of a financial hit to the company's bottom line."



  • New York minimum wage set to increase; higher pay debate rages on: As the Capital Region prepares for another annual, statewide minimum wage increase at the end of the year, debate persists about whether the government raising pay is really the best way to improve the lives of low-wage workers. Those advocating for higher wages have a fairly simple argument: minimum wage workers aren't earning enough to comfortably survive. As costs for things like health care, education and housing continue to rise around the U.S., real wages have generally not kept pace. Opponents of increasing the minimum wage, however, argue that higher wages will force employers to raise consumer prices, potentially cut workers' hours or even fire employees to offset the higher payroll. Starting in 2016, the New York minimum wage was set to increase gradually each year until it reaches $15 an hour. Read full story here.


  • Op-Ed by Doug Kellogg, Save Jersey - NJ Bill Would End Tipped Wage, Killing Jobs & Restaurants for No Benefit Whatsoever: Is there a more mindless far-left policy than ending the minimum wage tip credit? For people who are supposed to care about workers, Democrats that support this move aren’t showing it. In New Jersey – now governed by sentient left-wing interest group Phil Murphy – legislation has been proposed to end the tipped wage credit. Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter is the main sponsor of Assembly Bill 1972, which increases the base wage for tipped workers and moves to eliminate the credit entirely. Lawmakers are negotiating an amendment that would affect the phase in timeline. Governor Murphy was quick to laud the measure and wants action by the end of the year. Murphy is also spearheading efforts to increase the state minimum wage to $15-per-hour, even though New Jersey’s wage is already indexed to inflation. The wildest thing about the push to eliminate the tipped wage is that it is entirely unnecessary. Servers who work under the tipped wage credit already must make minimum wage at the end of the day



  • Big Soda And The Ballot: Soda Industry Takes Cues From Tobacco To Combat Taxes: Taxing soda is an increasingly popular approach to raising revenue while combating obesity, which affects 40 percent of American adults. But the sweetened-beverage industry is not about to go away quietly. Ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, the soda industry poured millions of dollars into fighting taxes on sugary drinks. In recent years, it has been largely successful in shutting down new taxes, except in a handful of major cities. The industry is now pushing statewide measures billed as grocery tax bans that strip cities and towns of their ability to tax soda. Two of these initiatives will be on the ballot Tuesday in Washington and OregonArizona and Michigan already ban localities from enacting soda taxes. In California, where four cities have soda taxes, the beverage industry pressured lawmakers this summer into accepting a 12-year moratorium on local taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks. Some lawmakers say Californians are being "held hostage" over the measure by the soda industry, which spent $7 million on a ballot initiative that would have made it much harder for cities to raise taxes of any kind. The beverage industry dropped the initiative after lawmakers agreed to the moratorium. The sweetened-beverage industry is also cultivating relationships with doctors and scientists, which public health advocates say they've seen before. "There are definitely parallels with the tobacco industry," says Betsy Janes of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Soda makers "are happy to take a page from their playbook."
    • That's because for years, tobacco companies used their lobbying clout to persuade state lawmakers to block cities and counties from passing smoke-free ordinances. By 2006, 21 states had pre-empted local smoke-free laws, according to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. Even today, 13 states have some sort of ban on local smoke-free laws. By comparison more than 30 countries and seven U.S. cities — including Seattle, San Francisco and Boulder, Colo. — now tax sugary drinks.
    • Read full story here:


  • Anchorage Considers Alcohol Tax Hike: The tax would add 40 cents to the cost of a six-pack of beer, the paper says. Congress slashed taxes on alcohol makers as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, to the consternation of public-health advocates.



  • PA Sports Betting Is Finally Here: Hollywood Casino Is Taking First Wagers Today:  Penn National Gaming began testing its sports betting product Thursday, November 15 at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in PA, according to the company. Penn National is the first casino in the Keystone State to offer sports betting, as “live money wagering” is set to begin Thursday “with guidance and approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Wagering started at 3 p.m. Thursday, according to Penn National. That makes it the seventh state where a legal single-game bet was placed in the United States, joining:
    • Nevada
    • New Jersey
    • New Mexico
    • Delaware
    • Mississippi
    • West Virginia


  • Legal Sports Report: Interstate Sports Betting Compacts? Ohio Lawmaker Pitches Them At DC Summit: Interstate sports betting compacts might be a thing in the U.S. if one lawmaker has his way. Next year, sports betting is expected to be a hot-button topic across the country as more lawmakers look to capitalize on the demise of the federal ban which limited single-game betting to Nevada. But as more sports betting bills begin to pop up, each with their own set of rules and regulations, one Ohio lawmaker believes a multistate agreement might be the key to stomping out the illegal market. Read more at Legal Sports Report.


  • Legal Sports Report: Arkansas Sports Betting Closer To Reality After Voters Approve Constitutional Amendment: Arkansas sports betting could soon become a reality after state voters approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday to legalize it. More than 54 percent of Arkansas voters cast ballots favoring the measure. Issue 4 in Arkansas explicitly included sports betting as a legal form of gambling. The measure also approved casino-style gambling at four locations in the state. That would happen via authorization of licenses by the state. Approved locations include two existing racetracks and two proposed casinos in the vicinity of Little Rock. The current dog-racing tracks with gambling are Southland (near MemphisTenn.) and Oaklawn (outside Little Rock) The proposed facilities would be located in Jefferson and Pope counties.
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