Otis Sanford: The status of tax breaks and the city of Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the city of Memphis waits to learn if it is seriously in the running to become the site of a $5 billion headquarters for Amazon, another important debate is being renewed.

Should such generous tax breaks be offered to companies with only low wage jobs?

The city submitted a proposal to Amazon totaling some $65 million in tax breaks and other incentives to attract the company's coveted second headquarters. And why not? We`re talking about 50,000 jobs that pay mostly higher middle class salaries.

But what about companies bringing less attractive jobs?

Should they continue to get the same lucrative tax breaks?

City Council member Martavius Jones, who sits on the board responsible for handing out these incentives, told the Memphis Daily News the practice should be reviewed. Jones pointed to an Amazon distribution center that was awarded a property tax abatement for jobs paying about $26,000 a year. He believes those tax breaks should be reserved for companies offering higher pay.

The debate is nothing new. Supporters argue that the available workforce in Memphis mostly can only support packaging and distribution jobs that pay lower wages. So we have to go after what we can get.

My take is that we should continue the delicate balance of trying to grow our city`s middle class without turning away other jobs that also are sorely needed.

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