Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin get to headline today’s Amazon press release: Governor Quinn, Senator Durbin and Amazon Announce Plans to Create 1,000 Full-Time Jobs in Illinois.
Amazon.com is proving itself quite forgiving while also providing a few political favors to Illinois politicians in an election year. The timing of the announcement is very convenient for the politicians with Illinois general elections a week away. Both Quinn and Durbin are running for re-election this cycle with voters deciding November 4th.
One must wonder what Amazon is getting in exchange for this political favor as Illinois has made Amazon’s life difficult in recent years. In March 2011, Gov. Quinn signed the Amazon tax into law. This Nexus law interprets a company’s physical presence to include its affiliates. This chased companies like FatWallet out of the state and resulted in Amazon terminating affiliate relationships with thousands of Amazon Associates (like myself) so they could continue to not collect sales tax. After almost three years, the unconstitutional law was finally ruled void. You can see more of these events in Illinois’ Amazon Tax timeline of events.
Meanwhile, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has led a similar law (“Main Street Fairness” name becomes “Marketplace Fairness”) at the federal level. Amazon supports this because it would simplify sales tax and make its collection less of a burden while eBay and other companies oppose the law. This has been in the works since August 2011 and has made little reported progress. Amazon having a warehouse within Illinois borders would also mean all Illinois residents will be charged sales tax on their Amazon purchases, but that should have been paid anyways through the Use Tax line on the Illinois income tax.
The main evidence of this announcement having political benefits is not only its timing but its lack of information. The press release states that “Amazon is beginning site selection activities and it plans to open its first facility in Illinois next year.” Sampling previous announcements, they all included the location where the fulfillment center would be built. Examples include but are not limited to:
No matter where Amazon chooses to locate their warehouse, I’m happy they’re bringing jobs to Illinois despite the politics in play in the background. I hope the selection committee considers the unemployment rate by county and considers bringing jobs to counties with higher unemployment that are still close to the population centers they wish to reach such as Kankakee and Winnebago counties. The September 2014 map below shows Illinois unemployment by county (PDF):