Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Lawmakers Send Christie Bill Offering Amazon Tax Breaks for HQ

  • Billions of dollars in incentives to lure second headquarters
  • Some N.J. politicians would get heftier retirement benefits

New Jersey lawmakers on their final voting day of the lame-duck session sent outgoing Governor Chris Christie measures to boost pensions for some elected officials and offer Amazon.com Inc. tax breaks if it locates its second headquarters in the state.

The retirement-benefits proposal would enrich politicians, including former Camden Mayor Dana Redd, who leave one office and are re-elected to another. First-term changes by Christie and the Democratic-controlled legislature to shore up the pension system, the worst-funded in the U.S., forced such beneficiaries into a less generous defined-benefits plan.

The bill to draw Amazon offers $3 billion in tax breaks, the largest in state history, for the creation of at least 30,000 jobs. Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, is offering $2 billion more in incentives for the Internet retailer to build its office there. Christie, a Republican whose term ends on Jan. 16, has endorsed the Newark proposal and is expected to sign the bill.

In an October ranking by Reis Inc. of the top 25 cities for Amazon, Newark wasn’t on the list.

The governor hasn’t taken a public position on the pensions measure, which critics have said would reward the politically connected at the expense of a system with a $90 billion unfunded liability. Its supporters, which include Democrats as well as Republicans, say they’re reversing an unintentional slight to a small group of elected officials, with no measurable impact on the pension’s solvency.

Redd, a Democrat who left the state Senate to serve two terms as Camden’s mayor, was a key Christie ally as he upended the city’s police force, installed a schools superintendent and directed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives for businesses to set up in the city, a onetime industrial powerhouse across the Delaware River from Philadelphia that was decimated by the collapse of its manufacturing base. Her term ended on Jan. 1.

Both measures were introduced in the past month. The pensions bill, which won Senate approval in December, was pulled off the Assembly floor on Monday when it appeared not to have enough support. It was posted again later in the marathon session and was approved 41-19 with eight abstentions, giving it the minimum needed to pass.

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