Amazon data center Oregon

One of Amazon's data centers in eastern Oregon is seen here from the air in an company photo.


Critics Slam Amazon's Billion-Dollar 'Corporate Welfare' for Oregon Data Centers

"No other retailer in U.S. history has come anywhere close to such enrichment at public expense," asserted one opponent of the nine-figure subsidy.

Opponents of a contentious $1 billion subsidy for online retail behemoth Amazon's data centers in Oregon on Friday decried what one critic called "corporate welfare" for a company that raked in more than a half a trillion dollars in revenue last year.

Amazon already has four data centers in Morrow County, Oregon and plans on building six more Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-computing facilities there. Earlier this month, Port of Morrow commissioners approved tax breaks for Amazon with an estimated value of $1 billion.

"With this new award, we now know of $6.1 billion in subsidies given to Amazon in the United States alone," said Kasia Tarczynska, a senior analyst at the public interest watchdog Good Jobs First. "No other retailer in U.S. history has come anywhere close to such enrichment at public expense."

While local officials hope the incentives will secure $12 in billion new investment by Amazon in the remote county on the Columbia River about 185 miles east of Portland, opponents bristled when residents were given just one day's notice before the final commission vote.

Oregonians are also angered by Amazon's efforts to fight proposed state legislation that would compel data centers to use clean energy.

In a statement following the commission's vote, Amazon said that "we've been an active member of eastern Oregon communities since 2011, investing more than $15.6 billion while supporting thousands of local jobs."

"Investments like these create and support high-paying, highly skilled jobs in local communities, and projects that benefit local education, healthcare, public services, and more," the company added.

Common Dreams reported last year that Amazon dodged $5.2 billion in federal corporate taxes in 2021 while paying an effective tax rate of 6%, far lower than the statutory 21%.

Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy said Friday that "in a 2016 study looking at major internet companies and their data center subsidies, we found a cost per job of almost $2 million."

"The AWS grab in Morrow could be several times that," he added. "At these obscene costs, the only clear outcome is a massive transfer of wealth from Oregon taxpayers to Amazon shareholders."

As Good Jobs First argued: "Oregonians should not pay Amazon to do what it would do anyway."

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