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Maryland senators advance incentives luring Amazon to Montgomery County, but add expiration date

The Maryland Senate has advanced Gov. Larry Hogan's proposal to offer Amazon billions of dollars in tax breaks if it builds a headquarters in Montgomery County — but gave the bait an expiration date.

Senators gave initial approval Friday night to what Hogan has described as a $3 billion package of tax credits and exemptions. Nonpartisan legislative analysts have estimated the package’s cost at $5.6 billion through 2054.

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Gov. Larry Hogan released the details of his $5 billion pitch to lure Amazon to Montgomery County on Monday, proposing a "PRIME" Act that would give Fortune 100 companies that invest $5 billion in the state a series of tax breaks worth $3 billion.

They adopted an amendment offered by Sen. James Rosapepe, a Prince George’s County Democrat, that terminates the offer on Jan. 1, 2022. Rosapepe said the “sunset” provision is necessary because the legislation does not mention Amazon by name, and could be claimed by any Fortune 100 company that moves to the state.

“This is a deal for Amazon now — this governor, this legislature — and it’s not an open-ended invitation for anybody that wants to take advantage of this,” Rosapepe said.

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White Flint Mall and the area around it in Rockville is among 20 sites on a short list that Amazon is considering for its second headquarters complex, in addition to its home operations in Seattle. Cities and communities across the country, including Baltimore, had competed for what they all hoped would bring them a major economic boom.

An Amazon second headquarters in Montgomery County would add $17 billion to Maryland's economy, a study commissioned by state and county officials has found.

Amazon is expected to create as many as 50,000 jobs and to invest as much as $5 billion at the site it chooses for what it is calling HQ2.

Hogan’s proposal would give Amazon three types of tax breaks: Corporate income tax credits based on wages it pays, a sales tax exemption on some of its equipment and materials, and property tax credits based on the land value it creates.

The governor also promised the company $2 billion in transportation projects, but those are not included in the legislation that advanced in the Senate.

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A companion bill in the House of Delegates has not advanced out of the committee to which it was assigned.

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