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Maryland Senate approves Amazon incentive bill

March 20, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A $5.6 billion package of tax incentives to try to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Maryland passed the Senate on Monday night.

Senators voted 35-11 for the bill, just before the General Assembly reached its crossover deadline. That’s when lawmakers aim to have a bill pass one of the two houses as the 90-day session reaches its last three weeks.

The Amazon measure includes a package of state income, property and sales tax credits. The three main components of the legislation include a tax credit on wages paid, sales and use tax breaks for building the headquarters and a tax break on increases in property value.

Maryland budget analysts estimate the inducements would add up to roughly $5.6 billion through 2054. The state also is considering about $2 billion in transportation enhancements.

Supporters say Amazon would have to create 40,000 jobs at an average salary of $100,000 to be eligible. That means the company would pay wages of $4 billion, in addition to the $4.5 billion it’s estimated the cost of a new plant and equipment would be.

The measure, pitched by Gov. Larry Hogan, would not take effect, if Amazon decides against putting the new headquarters in Maryland. Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of 20 cities and regions that made Amazon’s shortlist. Amazon’s search for its second headquarters location has triggered an unprecedented competition among governments around North America.

The bill would still need to pass the House of Delegates to get to Hogan’s desk.

Here’s a look at other measures lawmakers voted on Monday:

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The House approved a measure to strengthen the General Assembly’s policies regarding sexual harassment. It would allow the assembly’s Joint Ethics Committee to refer sexual harassment complaints to an independent investigator. It would require an investigator at the request of a complainant. It also would prohibit a registered lobbyist from harassing other lobbyists, legislators, employees of the executive and legislative branches, as well as interns or pages. It now goes to the Senate.

SCHOOLS FUNDING

The Senate voted unanimously for a constitutional amendment to require that taxes on casino revenue set aside for schools would have to be used to enhance education funding above state formulas. Voters would need to approve of the changes on the ballot in November. The bill now goes to the House. Hundreds of teachers were scheduled to hold a rally outside the statehouse Monday evening.

HEALTH CARE

Measures to help avoid collapse of the Maryland Health Care Exchange’s distressed individual market were scheduled for votes in the House and Senate. The House approved the legislation Monday afternoon, and the Senate is scheduled to vote on them Monday night. The measures would use about $340 million that health insurance companies and managed care organizations won’t have to pay in taxes due to the federal tax overhaul to keep costs down over the next year and create a pathway to a long-term solution through reinsurance, which protects insurers against very high claims.

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