By Judith Ayers, Contributing Writer
Today, the multinational commerce company Amazon.com, Inc announced that it will expand a Lehigh Valley facility and hire hundreds of new full-time employees (for jobs that offer comprehensive health care benefits).
In a statement, Amazon made clear that its decision to grow its fulfillment center in Breinigsville was due directly to the legislature’s decision not to tax online retailers.
“We’re excited to be hiring for hundreds of additional jobs at Amazon’s fulfillment centers in Pennsylvania this summer,” said Dave Clark, vice president of Amazon’s North American Operations. “We’re committed to growth in Pennsylvania because Governor Corbett and other state officials have demonstrated their commitment to Amazon jobs and investment.”
“Supporting the growth of Pennsylvania’s economy and specifically the creation of secure jobs for our residents is a high priority,” said Kelli Roberts, a spokeswoman for Governor Tom Corbett. “This begins with the recent passage of a responsible state budget that does not raise taxes and the passage of tort reform. Both give business the stability they need to stay, relocate and grow in the commonwealth.”
The company has good reason to safeguard its PR in PA. Over the past month, as they scrambled to find ways to boost revenue, legislators on both sides of the aisle called for a sales tax on items purchased online.
“The law says if you buy something, the sales tax is six percent,” said Rep. Sheryl Delozier, (R-Cumberland). “You need to pay it.”
Delozier believes online retailers are already subject to PA’s sales tax, and greater attention is needed to enforce it. Indeed, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling allows states to force businesses to collect sales taxes if they have a physical presence in the state – which Amazon does.
The company has numerous distribution centers in PA, including one opened in 2008 in the Humboldt Industrial Park with the help of nearly $2 million in state grant money.
Lawmakers have also argued that the absence of an online tax constitutes an unfair disadvantage for “brick and mortar” businesses – those with a physical location – in PA.
It’s “unfair [to the] mom and pops and even Wal-Mart and Best Buy,” said Rep. Phyllis Mundy, (D-Luzerne) in a recent story.
Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.