Seattle Passes Tax on Big Business to Fight Homelessness

16 May, 2018, 11:34 | Author: Billie Castillo
  • Dueling signs at City Hall over the head tax

"How is that a compromise?"

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez slammed Amazon, saying "their tone in this message that is clearly hostile toward the city council is not what I expect from a business who continues to tell us that they want to be a partner on these issues". With 45,000 employees now in Seattle, the tech giant would have ended up paying around $12 million a year.

The council convened a 17-member Progressive Revenue Task Force, which in March published a report calling for an EHT that would raise at least $75 million.

The senator believes he can prove the head tax is illegal. After pushing the income tax into law a year ago, a King County Superior Court judge ruled it was not authorized under state law.

Amazon is the city's largest private employer and will pay the most under the new tax law. The law would affect about 3 percent of business in the city, according to the council.

"There is no way this tax will be a burden on big businesses in Seattle", Sawant said, slamming the mayor for siding with "Amazon billionaires". However, it still does not support the compromise.

"The city could have slightly raised its property tax, which is more visible to voters, rather than effectively taxing workers through their employers", he said.

The tax, which passed unanimously, is almost half the size that four city council members originally proposed in April. With a 9-0 vote of approval, Durkan couldn't veto the legislation.

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It also includes $2.3 million in revenue to go towards a five-year goal of picking up 950,000 pounds of garbage.

Co-sponsor of the charge, Teresa Mosqueda, said the bill was an opportunity to provide housing: "People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity", she said. Sawant called the smaller tax proposal as the "Durkan-Bezos deal", referring to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who opposed the original proposal.

In a separate 5-4 vote, the council recommended spending two-thirds of the new tax revenue to build and operate low-income housing units.

Thus far, Amazon hasn't engaged in debates on Beacon Hill and in Boston's City Hall.

Where does the money that Seattle spends on homeless services go now?

Housing: $22.4 million (32 percent); Housing services, rental assistance helping people into housing, and case management. This would ease some of the pressure of the city's growing homeless population. In 2017, the city counted 8,522 homeless people.

"When we start talking about changing that system that benefits some to make it more fair, there's a lot of resistance", Councilmember Mike O'Brien said during Monday's meeting. "We're trying to get away from legacy contracts". The Internet giant also has drawn criticism from President Trump, who has complained Amazon does not pay enough taxes.

On Saturday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee sent the City of Seattle a letter, indicating $40 million in additional funding to King County could result from the Washington budget.



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