Gov. Nikki Haley's reiterated that she believes it is up to lawmakers whether to approve a sales tax break promised to lure online retailer Amazon.com – and 1,200 jobs – to Lexington County.
Haley said she opposes exempting Amazon from collecting sales tax on South Carolina purchases and that her administration would oppose future targeted tax incentives if they provide a competitive advantage over existing state businesses. Lawmakers and Lexington County officials have wanted to the governor to endorse the proposal, even if tepidly, before introducing the bill in the Legislature.
"The Legislature has decisions to make," Haley said at a Wednesday press conference. "I will sit and wait at my desk and if it comes we certainly will let it go.
"This is not about Amazon. We want companies in our state. What we don't want is to change tax policy to get them here."
The sales tax break was part of a package of incentives pledged by former Gov. Mark Sanford's administration in December. The deal has put Haley and lawmakers in the hot seat, anxious to land new jobs and reduce the state's 10.2 percent unemployment rate but worried about the political fallout from the Tea Party and fiscal conservatives ideologically opposed to tax incentives.
Last fall Haley campaigned saying she would aggressively recruit new businesses to the state, but would also focus on existing small businesses. Haley said she worried about the state keeping its promises to new employers, but disagreed that she was refusing to take a stand on the Amazon deal.
"It would be punting if I said I don't know where I am," she said. "I am making it very clear: It will become law.
"We just finished another (economic development deal) yesterday, we're hoping to finish another one today. There is no more bigger priority I have than jobs, but I will not do it on the backs of businesses we already have."