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Long Island City, Queens residents protested Wednesday against Amazon's announcement that it had selected the neighborhood for one of its new headquarters. (Photo: Shannan Ferry/Twitter)

NY Assembly Member Has Better Idea: Cancel $3 Billion Amazon Giveaway, Buy Up Crushing Student Debt Instead

"We shouldn't pay Amazon for the privilege of a new office campus. Instead, Amazon should pay its fair share of taxes for the privilege of locating in one of the greatest cities in the world, and taking advantage of all we have to offer."

Julia Conley

As details of Amazon's plans for its new headquarters in Queens, New York and Arlington, Virginia come into view, local officials in New York spoke out on Wednesday against their state's decision to give away a total of nearly $3 billion in taxpayer money to the company as an incentive for supposedly bringing new jobs to New York City—money that could be used to benefit residents and the local economy rather than subsidize the corporate giant.

New York State Assembly member Ron T. Kim appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss legislation he's introducing to block the deal and offer his own thoughts on other necessities New York City could spend nearly $1.3 billion on rather than tax incentives for Amazon to build its eight million square foot campus. 

Namely, Kim said, some of the $34.8 billion in student debt held by New York City residents who have paid taxes, worked, raised families, and contributed to the economy in the state for years could be wiped out for what Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have happily agreed to pay Amazon.

"We have over one million New Yorkers living in student debt—living with student debt, unable to pay the minimum amount, barely getting by," Kim said. "But instead of bailing out the people here in New York, our own Democratic governor is willing to give—transfer wealth out of New York and give it directly to the pockets of the richest man on the planet?"

Kim's bill would cancel the publicly-funded subsidies within the deal—which, the legislator noted, goes against New York law.

Watch the full interview:

"The New York state Constitution—actually clearly states that we’re not allowed to give any corporate subsidies or money to the private sector or business or corporation," Kim said. "They’re getting around it by working with quasi-government agencies, that was designed, for the last 60 years, to execute this type of transfer of wealth."

Kim warned that New York is "literally sleepwalking into a supernova, catastrophic, financial meltdown" by subsidizing Amazon's campus—which will reportedly include a helipad for billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos to land and take off from during visits.

"Each year, local governments spend nearly $100 billion in a bidding war to lure businesses into their city limits," said Bill Lipton, director of New York's Working Families Party, in a statement. "New York must not join that race to the bottom. We shouldn't pay Amazon for the privilege of a new office campus. Instead, Amazon should pay its fair share of taxes for the privilege of locating in one of the greatest cities in the world, and taking advantage of all we have to offer."

With New Yorkers and D.C.-area residents incensed over the deals their elected officials have struck with Bezos, locals in the other cities which came close to being chosen for the company's second headquarters were breathing a sigh of relief with the news that their homes would not face the affordable housing crisis, rising income inequality, and traffic congestion that's befallen Seattle since Amazon opened there in 1994.

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