Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that $3 billion in tax credits should be offered to the public, not Amazon - and a new poll shows that many Americans agree

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Getty/Alex Wong

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been outspoken about Amazon's HQ2 deal in New York City, which has now been canceled.

  • Amazon backed out of a deal on February 14 to develop part of its second headquarters - known as HQ2 - in New York City, in exchange for a total in $3 billion in tax breaks it would receive over 10 years.
  • The company cited resistance from state and local politicians as the reason behind its rethinking the deal. 
  • A new INSIDER poll reveals that most respondents believe there are better uses for $3 billion in tax breaks than giving it all to one company for development. 
  • The most popular use among respondents, by far, was for the tax breaks to go to residents.
  • It's an idea that has also been supported by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Amazon stunned onlookers on February 14 when it announced it was cancelling its New York HQ2 project before it ever got off the ground.

The company backed out of a deal to put part of its second headquarters - known as HQ2 - in New York City, in exchange for $3 billion in tax breaks it would receive over 10 years. The company cited resistance from state and local politicians as the reason behind its rethinking the deal. 

A few polls, like ones by INSIDER, Siena College, and HarrisX (sponsored by Amazon), mostly showed public support for Amazon coming to Queens, though responses were split when specific aspects of the deal - like the $3 billion figure - were mentioned.

Read more: Most Americans want Amazon's HQ2 to come to their city

A new INSIDER poll conducted on SurveyMonkey Audience may help explain why. The poll asked 1,117 respondents what the best use of $3 billion in tax credits would be: giving it to one large company to open a large corporate office, to several mid-size companies to open offices, to existing businesses in the area for growth, or to residents in the area to encourage spending.


AP/Mark Lennihan

An Amazon office entrance in New York City.

The style of deal that was negotiated between Amazon and New York - $3 billion in tax credits for a new, large office - carried only about 4% of the vote in the INSIDER poll. It was the least popular of all possible responses, including "I don't know," which earned just over 12% of votes. 

By far the most popular response supported giving tax credits to residents, which took the lion's share of the vote at more than 45%. Next was giving them to existing businesses, with over 20%, and mid-size companies, at 18%. The poll had a margin of error of about 3%. Those results held steady regardless of whether the respondent said they lived in an urban, rural, or suburban area. 

There were some differences between how more liberal or more conservative respondents would allocate the tax credits, but they did not change the results materially.

Conservative respondents were slightly more game than liberals to give a single large company a $3 billion welcome mat, but still, only 7% of moderately or very conservative respondents favored that option.

Tax credits for existing businesses remained flatly popular across the board, with one in five thinking they would be the best option. Moderately or very liberal respondents favored giving tax credits to residents by a gap of eight percentage points over their conservative counterparts, who favored giving credits to several new mid-size businesses by five percentage points.

Altogether, though, the issue transcended politics: a small fraction of respondents think the best use of that kind of tax credit is to one major company.

Long Island City

AP/Mark Lennihan

Long Island City, Queens.

Not even people who strongly supported the Amazon deal seemed to believe that giving tax credits to a major company would be the best overall choice. Later in the survey, we presented the gist of the Amazon arrangement: $3 billion in tax credits for 25,000 jobs in a new headquarters.

Of those who strongly supported that deal, only 10% thought one major company was the best beneficiary of such a tax credit when presented with other options.

Meanwhile, 40% thought residents would be the best recipient, 26% said several mid-size companies, and 19% said existing businesses.

What's clear is that given the option for giving $3 billion in tax credits, people would rather see pretty much anything other than a deal that looks similar to the one New York made - and then canceled - with Amazon. That polling supports Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's stance that $3 billion in incentives should be used in other ways. 

"It's fair to ask why we don't invest the capital for public use, + why we don't give working people a tax break," Ocasio-Cortez said in a series of tweets on Tuesday night.

She previously suggested the cash could be put to better use than given in tax credits. The idea was dismissed as "nonsense" by some on Twitter who assumed she didn't understand how these credits work.


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