Rep. Watson: Let's Keep Tennessee Jobs in Tennessee
By Rep. Eric Watson
CLEVELAND (SUBMITTED) - With Tennessee's unemployment rate still above 9 percent, why would any state leader stand in the way of close to 3000 new full-time, good paying jobs with good benefits? Hopefully no one would seriously consider this, but sometimes legislators take their eye off the ball.
Such is the case with Amazon.com's plan to bring 2700 new full-time jobs - and another 4000 seasonal jobs - to Tennessee by both expanding existing fulfillment centers and building new ones. With one out of every ten Tennesseans unemployed this would seem to be just what the doctor ordered.
The full-time jobs come with good benefits and opportunities to advance through the ranks of one of the best companies in America. Amazon has consistently cited Tennessee's friendly business climate, support from state leaders, and outstanding workforce as reasons to come here and grow here.
We need to forge and cultivate more relationships like the one we have with Amazon, so we can attract more companies and ensure that every Tennessean who wants a good job, has a good job. The last thing we should do - especially in times of economic difficulty -- is anything to discourage good companies from coming to Tennessee.
But a few legislators are trying to squeeze Amazon for sales taxes that it rightly does not have to collect. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear states cannot collect sales taxes from Internet-based companies. To try and overturn a clear decision is unwarranted.
Moreover, the maneuvering by these lawmakers jeopardizes the reputation of our state. We have a strong track record of welcoming companies and keeping our commitments to them.
This legislation infringes on that reputation of prosperity. Other companies, who would normally choose to locate here (and who are looking at us right now), will not look favorably upon us of if we break our word and not honor an agreement.
It is unfortunate that some people in government look to raise revenue any way they can instead of providing wise and responsible leadership for the people. Simply stated: the more Tennesseans who have a good-paying, full-time job, the more people you have paying taxes to help fund government services. If people aren't employed, everyone loses.
If my colleagues in the legislature think Amazon is bluffing just look across the border at South Carolina. A few weeks ago, legislators there denied Amazon an exemption for collecting sales taxes that had been agreed to in the past. Amazon pulled up stakes and left even though it had already begun construction on a distribution center that would create over 1200 jobs there.
Now, lo and behold, the lawmakers there don't think it was such a great idea to lose those jobs and they plan to vote again on the exemption. If they reverse themselves it is possible Amazon will come back, but there are no guarantees once a state burns a private company that badly.
There is no reason for Tennessee to go down this road. Amazon has been here, likes it here, and wants to grow here - all the while employing more of our people and helping our economy bounce back.
Bottom line: It is ridiculous that any legislator would stand in the way of an agreement to bring in a company that stands to benefit all of Tennessee. Here's my advice for these lawmakers: In this slow economic recovery, I would hate to be known as the legislator who pulled the rug out from a company bringing thousands of jobs to our state.
Mr. Watson is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and is a Republican from Cleveland.