Seattle City Council Approves Tax on Large Businesses Such As Amazon

Wednesday, 16 May, 2018

Councilwoman Sawant talks a lot about union labor, but in this case, many rank-and-file union members are against the head tax because their jobs (building the new skyscrapers Amazon will inhabit) are dependent on the company staying in the city.

But the measure has sparked intense debate - even shouting matches in otherwise reserved Seattle - over who should pay to solve the housing crisis exacerbated by that growth.

So, at the end of April, the Seattle City Council released draft legislation that would force companies with revenues of over $20 million in the city to pay 26 cents for each hour worked by a Seattle-based employee, or roughly $540 per head per year.

Almost 600 employers - about 3 percent of all Seattle businesses - would pay the tax starting in 2019. This has led to lack of affordable housing for the people especially students who are becoming homeless at an alarming rate and people are spending more than half their income on housing. If passed it would add a $520 tax per person, per year on every large company in the city.

Amazon, which had paused planning on two downtown Seattle office towers pending the outcome of the vote, said Monday it would would resume construction planning on Block 18. It also was rethinking filling office space in another leased building.

The plan that advanced out of committee on a 5-4 vote Friday would tax large businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks about $500 a year per worker.

Amazon is headed by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

Big Seattle businesses, including Amazon and Starbucks, criticized the tax.

Earlier this month Amazon put two large construction projects in the city on hold until the tax decision had been made. Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Debora Juarez praised the work and collegial negotiations.

The council unanimously approved the final ordinance modified by approved Amendment 24 with a 9-0 vote.

Amazon's dissatisfaction with Seattle ups the ante for whichever city gets tapped for the company's second headquarters. Some see it as a warning to those contenders. "I don't understand why businesses think it's wrong to help".

The head-tax debate has been extremely divisive, with opposition questioning the need for more revenue for housing and homeless services, saying the city should do a better job of spending the funds it already has. Its unanimous council support confirms institutional bias against companies that create employment and generate most general-fund revenue. "One does not exclude the other". Most recently, they approved a $290 million levy in 2016. "Not just here at city hall, but all across this city", Durkan, said.

"Big businesses like Amazon have many tactics to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and it has required true dedication and sacrifice from hundreds of us to bring us to this point".

"They're getting taxed, and I'm getting taxed".

"People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity", Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said in the meeting.

The collected revenue would be used to address the civil state of emergency over homelessness that the city has been in since 2015. "But come up with a viable option", said Jennifer Schuyler, opponent of the tax. That's not clear but you can probably guess what the socialist answer is going to be. "Show us a plan".