Queens assemblyman introduces legislation to block Amazon subsidies in favor of student debt relief

Image courtesy of the office of Assemblyman Ron Kim

Assemblyman Ron Kim announced new legislation that would help millions of New Yorkers facing crippling student debt in response to New York state offering Amazon hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to develop a second headquarters in Long Island City.

Kim’s announcement came immediately after retail giant Amazon confirmed that Long Island City and Arlington, Virginia, would be the locations for the company’s new headquarters.

The law, entitled the New Yorkers Financial Freedom Act, would redirect taxpayer revenue from corporate and welfare subsidies toward buying and canceling distressed student debt. According to the assemblyman, the implementation of a debt cancellation program could add, on average, between $86 billion and $108 billion per year to the economy in addition to a rise in job creation and a decline in the unemployment rate.

“In New York, repurposing money used for corporate welfare to buy and cancel distressed student debt would cover roughly 84 percent of total troubled student loans. Approximately $8.25 billion of giveaways can be reallocated to relieve $9.8 billion of distressed student debt,” Kim said.

Kim took to Twitter and doubled down on his anti-Amazon stance, asking why Democrats in the Assembly and Senate were not stopping Cuomo from giving the company taxpayer money.

Just days before introducing the legislation, Kim co-authored a New York Times op-ed with Zephyr Teachout railing against Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration for the subsidies. He called the governor’s actions, which included a joke about renaming himself “Amazon Cuomo” before the company confirmed its decision, “peak sycophancy.”

“Giving Jeff Bezos hundreds of millions of dollars is an immoral waste of taxpayers money when it’s more than clear that the money would create more jobs and more economic growth when it is used to relieve student debt,” said Kim in a written statement.

The assemblyman from the 40th District equated giving Amazon large amounts of corporate welfare to “Donald Trump giving trillions in corporate tax breaks at the federal level” and added that there is no correlation between job creation and “corporate giveaways.”

“If we used this money to cancel distressed student debt instead, there would be immediate positive GDP growth, job creation, and impactful social-economic returns,” Kim said.

In his announcement, the assemblyman cited studies which showed that incentives result in negative effects including “distorting business investment decisions or unduly enriching companies that would have made investments without the need of incentives.” He added that experts like Timothy Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found that using incentives did not change wages, unemployment rates or economic growth in the places he studied.

“A program to cancel student debt executed in 2017 results in an increase in real GDP, a decrease in the average unemployment rate, and little to no inflationary pressure over the 10-year horizon of our simulations, while interest rates increase only modestly,” Kim said.

In the upcoming days, Kim said that he would be announcing the details of the New Yorkers for Financial Freedom Act on www.gutcheck.us.