The Virginia Senate easily approved state tax incentives of up to $750 million over the next 15 years for Amazon to build a headquarters facility in Arlington. It also narrowly rejected a proposal for a $15 minimum wage.
The Amazon package, which passed 35 to 5, would provide cash grants to the online retail giant on condition that the company create tens of thousands of jobs with average pay of at least $150,000 a year.
The bill still needs the House’s approval, but it is expected to pass there. Supporters from both parties said the state would reap several times more in tax revenue than it would give in grants to Amazon.
The bill would include giving grants of $22,000 per new full-time job for the first 25,000 jobs, for a maximum of $550 million. After that, grants of $15,564 per new job would be issued for up to 12,850 additional jobs, for a total of $200 million.
Critics decried the package as an unnecessary giveaway to the richest man in the world, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is chief executive and founder of Amazon and also owns The Washington Post.
Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) called it “a gratuitous gift to the richest company on the planet.”
Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) countered that Amazon would only get back a portion of tax money that it generates.
“They don’t get a dime from the state . . . They get a rebate of their tax money,” Saslaw said. “At the end of 20 years, the state will have netted . . . $3 billion from our treasury that wouldn’t have come in had we not gotten these people to come here.”
The minimum-wage measure, sponsored by four Democrats, died in a 19-to-21 vote, with every Democrat in favor and every Republican opposed. It would have raised the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour over five years.
Democrats contended that the current wage floor — the same as the federal minimum — does not allow low-wage workers to support themselves. Republicans argued that raising the state’s minimum would hurt Virginia’s business climate and cause businesses to cut jobs.
Similar legislation has died in committee in previous years. This year,Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) voted with Democrats in committee to send the bill to the floor.
Norment’s vote to advance the bill was widely seen as ploy to force Democrats to cast a vote on the issue, something that Republican challengers might be able to use as campaign fodder in November’s elections.
Leading up to the vote, Norment told reporters who asked how he would vote that they would have to “remain curious.” On Monday, Norment voted against the bill.