The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Virginia House approves $750 million in Amazon subsidies after 9 minutes of debate.

Gov. Ralph Northam, center, arrives to deliver his State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the Virginia legislature on Jan. 9. (Steve Helber/AP)

The Virginia House spent just nine minutes in debate Monday before voting overwhelmingly to give Amazon up to $750 million in subsidies over 15 years for the company’s planned headquarters facility in Arlington.

The House sent the bill to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who has said he will sign it.

The tally was 83 to 16 in favor of the measure, which the Senate had approved a week earlier on a vote of 35 to 5.

Only two delegates spoke against the package, objecting mainly that the arrival of at least 25,000 new, well-paid Amazon employees in Northern Virginia would drive up housing costs.

Sen. Frank M. Ruff Jr. (R-Mecklenburg), the bill’s sponsor, said it passed so easily largely because the benefits outweighed the cost. Amazon would receive the subsidies only after it creates the new jobs, which are projected to generate several times more in tax revenue than the state is giving to the company.

“I think we did our homework pretty well in the six months prior to the announcement, so we had a package that was not overly extravagant but was very appealing to the company,” said Ruff, who led a bipartisan commission that helped write the package.

Amazon HQ2 to benefit from more than $2.4 billion in incentives from Virginia, New York and Tennessee.

Amazon announced in November that Arlington and New York would each get half of the much-publicized “HQ2” project. Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Anti-Amazon activists in Northern Virginia said they would continue to oppose the deal, both when the Arlington County Board votes on local incentives in February or March and in the legislature in future years.

“This is going to be a multiyear fight,” said Danny Cendejas, an organizer with La ColectiVa, part of the For Us, Not Amazon coalition. “We will have time to build up and oppose giving away money to corporations and invest in our communities instead.”

The Virginia bill provides for cash grants to Amazon 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.

The jobs must pay an average of $150,00 per year.

Waiting for scrutiny of Amazon’s headquarters plans? It could happen in 2019.

Del. Alfonso H. Lopez (D), whose Arlington district is close to the Amazon site, voted against the package.

“Folks are worried that they and the other low-income families are going to be priced out of the area’s homeowning and rental markets,” Lopez said. “I’m concerned about the impact on my community and our residents now, not on the benefits that we might see in five, seven and 10 years.”

Del. Lee J. Carter (D-Manassas) also voted against the bill.

In Arlington, county board members appear to favor approval of local incentives but are also open to considering proposals for worker protections and a community benefits package from Amazon.

The board’s Facebook Live events, as well as a handful of community meetings, have attracted a small but passionate number of opponents who question why the county and state should subsidize a wealthy corporation. They also want the county to object to Amazon’s contracts with federal immigration authorities.

Patricia Sullivan contributed to this report.