Tax incentives that bring in jobs are a good idea, Abrams says, unless they cripple the surrounding economy.
By publicly announcing that it’s looking for a second headquarters, Amazon has the politicians of cities and towns all over America salivating. But a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georiga, Stacey Abrams, says they need to think carefully about how an influx of jobs from Amazon, or any other company, will affect the people they represent.
“In the last 50 years, there’s been a sort of race to sell your community,” Abrams said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “It is not a bad thing to try to attract business. It is not a problem to use tax incentives as a means to attract those businesses. But those tax incentives cannot cripple the very community they’re intended to help.”
“When we [in Georgia] say ‘tax incentives,’ what we usually means are tax abatements, which means the company that comes is not paying property taxes,” she added. “That means you’re not investing in schools, you’re not investing in infrastructure, you’re not investing in safety. That comes at a cost, because you’re usually bringing new people to the community who use all these services.”
Speaking with Recode’s Kara Swisher and SKDKnickerbocker’s Hilary Rosen, a Democratic political strategist, Abrams said states like the one she hopes to run should be thinking about the long-term economic future, not temporary economic gains.
“In the tech space, Georgia’s opportunity is to make sure that we’re growing the type of workers to sustain a tech economy,” she said. “If you are incentivizing a company to come by destabilizing the educational system, you are not going to have people who stay for very long.”
On the new podcast, Abrams also talked about the early stages of her campaign for governor of Georgia. If she wins the Democratic primary and the general election in 2018, she’d be the first black woman ever to be elected governor in any U.S. state.
She criticized Democrats who only pay lip service to communities of color, saying her mission is to start talking to voters now. One of the challenges, she explained, is convincing Georgia’s increasingly diverse population that their votes can make a difference if they show up.
“We learned the wrong lesson from Obama’s campaign,” Abrams said. “He did not win because of technology. He did not win because of money. He won because he talked to people on the ground and organized them. He used technology as a tool to accomplish that. But he never forgot that the fundamental was talking to folks.”
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