COLUMBIA --- Amazon.com won initial approval Tuesday from South Carolina legislators to avoid collecting sales taxes after the online retail giant threatened to scuttle a 1,249-job distribution center.
The Senate Finance Committee agreed 15-5 to send a bill to the floor for debate that would leave it up to consumers to pay sales taxes for their online purchases from the retailer.
Supporters argued that's the way it has been for 60 years and the state has more to lose with Amazon dropping out of the project and the state not keeping an economic development promise.
The vote came as the committee's chairman cut off the chance for public debate by opponents by nixing a hearing in a subcommittee. That irked some opponents, including South Carolina Policy Council President Ashley Landess.
"No subcommittee hearing. No public testimony," said Landess, whose conservative group opposes special incentives for business. "So the public doesn't get to weigh in at all, really."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman said a detailed public hearing wasn't needed and the issue was aired enough in the full committee.
The Amazon deal was struck as a five-year-old break from corporate income taxes and sales tax collection requirements was expiring. They were put on the books to help win a QVC distribution center. QVC now collects sales tax on goods sold in South Carolina; Amazon would not.