Starbucks, Amazon tee off on Seattle's new head tax


As you know, on May 2nd, a top Amazon executive stated the company was "putting a pause" on expansion in Seattle in an attempt to influence the city council to reject a proposed $0.26/hour tax on the largest companies in the city to address our housing and homelessness crisis.

The City Council's 9-0 vote, which followed a weekend of last-minute changes meant to gain support from Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan, affirms a plan that aims at generating more money to address homelessness and housing affordability in the Pacific Northwest city.

To view the full article, register now. It found that a lack of coordination between Seattle, surrounding cities, and the county creates inefficiency in the region's homeless response.

The original bill was sponsored by four council members: Gonzalez, Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold, and Mike O'Brien. The reform, if it goes through, will be a watershed moment for the people of the city and will force its largest employer, Amazon, to find headquarters elsewhere.

A broader tax proposal prompted the tech company to halt construction on one Seattle office tower and put off a lease of another tower. Under the amendment, the tax expires after five years with the option to renew it. Kshama Sawant was the only councilmember to vote against the amendment, but voted in support of the final tax after the smaller version was approved by her colleagues. A new report concluded that it would require about $400 million a year, conservatively, to solve the homelessness crisis in King County.

John Boufford with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades said he did not understand rhetoric against Amazon, which he noted provides good jobs for thousands of people. Saturday, councilmember Sawant led a march on Amazon's headquarters urging passage of the tax.

Some opponents of the measure called for greater accountability on how funds addressing homelessness are spent. Now, in five years, the fight in Seattle will begin again.

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"The spending keeps going up and we're not seeing results". A point-in-time count a year ago tallied more than 11,600 homeless people in King County. The median price for a house is now $777,000. This revenue increase far outpaces the Seattle population increase over the same time period.

In a speech opposing the amendment to shrink the tax, Sawant said that the council passed a head tax at all is a victory for "the movement", a line echoed by Socialist Alternative members who spoke out during a public comment session.

Under the new law, companies bringing in more than $20 million in revenue a year would be required to pay $275 per employee every year. One of them told committee members that if the tax passes, workers will have to go home, look their kids in the eye and tell them Daddy doesn't have a job anymore.

He said he was anxious about the effect the larger tax would have had on jobs in part because of concern over how the money would be spent.

Along with the tax Monday, the council approved a non-binding resolution that calls for spending 66 percent of the new money on affordable housing, 32 percent on emergency shelter, trash pickup, raises for service workers and other needs and 2 percent on administration.

Scruggs reported from Seattle.