In the November 15, 2018 edition of the Rio Grande Guardian, M. Ray Perryman laments Amazon’s final decision to locate its HQ2 in New York City and northern Virginia rather than in Texas. 

Missing out on new job creation – especially when the jobs, according to some reports, would be high-paid jobs – is, of course, a shame. 

Any state and any city within that state would be grateful to have a large corporation move into their area bringing economic development, increased tax revenues, and give the local population a bit of a surge. 

As a native New Yorker who grew up not far from Amazon’s chosen location in Long Island City, I’m glad to hear that my home borough “won” the contest.

Is it really fair to characterize it as a “win”? Many of us play the Powerball or Mega Millions lottery in hopes that we will “win” a massive jackpot; I’m certainly not ashamed to admit that I’ve put a few bucks into the mix from time to time. 

However, there are some who view playing the lottery as a source of income; they “invest” so much in tickets that they think it significantly increases their chances of winning the jackpot. Some spend so much (really, it ISN’T an investment) that it negatively impacts their budget. 

Is it rich people who play the lottery? No, hardly. In fact, I remember a former professor of mine who claimed that the lottery is essentially a “tax on people who are bad at math.” While their chances increase marginally, the probability is still astronomical.

Similarly, it could be said that rather than losing the contest Amazon created, taxpayers in Texas may have dodged a bullet. Some reports state that the incentive package Amazon received from the “winning” cities amount to as much as $3 billion. For context, that’s just a hair shy of the entire FY 2014 budget for the state of Idaho. It is also about half of the state funding institutions of higher education in Texas receive each year.

We’ve been trained to hear amounts in the billions of dollars as “Meh, just a drop in the bucket” when it comes to “investing” in bringing companies to our state but when it comes to public goods and services, we crow about a $30 annual increase in our property taxes; the average increase that a Hidalgo County resident who owns a $100k home will experience after the recent passage of several local bond proposals. 

I mean, it’s no secret that there are significant problems in our community when it comes to drainage infrastructure – I just moved here and it’s pretty obvious to me after seeing the local news for the last several months – yet public goods are just not important enough for us to reach into our collective wallets and pay for these improvements. In a state with no income tax, public goods are the only way we can make the critical investments needed to improve the standard of living for all valley residents.

If the state of Texas was prepared to make the “investment” to bring Amazon here, why not invest that money in the people of Texas by improving our public goods like our K-12 public schools and our higher education institutions like UTRGV? Instead of shelling out billions of dollars in corporate subsidies (or, corporate welfare, if you choose), let’s invest in the greatest resource that exists here: the people of Texas.