Colorado plans to make public its bid to land Amazon’s second headquarters somewhere in the Denver metro area on Thursday, and - much to the public’s chagrin - portions of the report likely will be kept private.
We certainly hope that when the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation releases the proposal, it redacts lightly and strives for transparency.
Our great state is among more than 200 other jurisdictions fighting to lure Amazon, and the various entities have handled the question of whether the public has a right to see their proposals in different ways.
Dallas-Fort Worth is keeping its bid completely under wraps.
Boston released its proposal - “Boston. Yes.” - but its incentives page reads in one part like a perfunctory guide so Amazon can find incentives programs in state statute.
We hope Colorado played it that cool in its application, and it sounds from some reports as though the the Centennial State did.
But as The Denver Post’s Tamara Chuang and Aldo Svaldi reported last week, the state’s efforts at transparency so far have been somewhat lacking. The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, a state entity, denied portions of a public-records requests made jointly by The Post and Denver7. Other documents were redacted with the state claiming either “deliberative process” or “confidential commercial information.”
Without a doubt, the document in question is a public record. Although it was ultimately submitted by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, a private membership organization, it was developed with significant input from the state and local jurisdictions. Those are, after all, the entities that would be responsible for any tax incentives Amazon could receive. (The Post's publisher, Mac Tully, sits on the metro board. He has recused himself from taking part in this editorial.)
J.J. Ament, the Metro Denver EDC chief executive, explained the only information to be redacted is proprietary property information submitted for possible site locations. He said disclosing that information - provided to the EDC in trust it would remain private - could jeopardize landowner negotiations with Amazon in the future and other possible pending deals.
We are sympathetic to that argument, especially given that it wasn’t the state compiling that information.
The question of incentives gets trickier. If estimates are provided in the document, it’d be hard to justify keeping them private, unless Amazon gave the state additional information that wasn’t made part of the otherwise very public solicitation of proposals.
We were able to estimate what Amazon could score from Colorado’s Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit, assuming it adds 50,000 employees making an average of $100,000, ramping up evenly over eight years. Such a slow roll-out would generate an estimated $746 million that could be accrued over eight years and used over 10 years to offset Colorado state income taxes. The incentive is based on a tax credit for half of what a company pays in federal Social Security and Medicare taxes for qualifying new positions.
The company could access up to another $10 million through job creation incentives in another state fund, which can pay up to $5,000 a job.
Such discussion of how taxpayer dollars could be given to Amazon, unless it's based on a specific piece of proprietary information Amazon provided to the state, must be made public.