Seattle approves 'head tax' on large businesses despite Amazon's opposition

Protesters attend the Seattle City Council finance committee meeting Friday May 11. The committee voted 5-4 to reject Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal of a more modest tax on large employers to address the city’s homelessness crisis.(Steve Ringman  The

Protesters attend the Seattle City Council finance committee meeting Friday May 11. The committee voted 5-4 to reject Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal of a more modest tax on large employers to address the city’s homelessness crisis.(Steve Ringman The

The tax starting in 2019 will be $275 per employee, per year on for-profit companies that gross at least $20 million per year in the city - down from a $500-per-head tax that Durkan threatened to veto.

When asked about Amazon's negative reaction to the response at a press conference following the City Council vote, Durkan said she stands by the legislation. "At the same time, our city must urgently address our homelessness and affordability crisis", she added in a recent emailed statement. So the city is restricted in how it can raise revenue, and now relies on sales and property taxes as well as a business and occupancy tax.

At an impassioned meeting Monday afternoon, the Council approved an amendment establishing the tax of $275 per employee per year, from $500 previously, on companies with more than $20 million in annual revenue in the city.

O'Brien, one of the original proposal's sponsors, said slashing the tax was the only practical way to move the measure forward.

The initial proposal - $500 per employee - met aggressive opposition from Amazon.

Other cities have implemented similar taxes, but critics say Seattle's tax could threaten the booming local economy and drive away jobs. It would raise an estimated $44.7 million a year and expire after five years, according to the Council.

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

The spending plan for the new proposal allots about 62 percent of revenue to go towards construction of affordable housing inventory and services.

"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".

"We have community members who are dying", Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda told The Seattle Times before the vote.

As an aside, Bagshaw chastised Sawant at a morning briefing, accusing her and her staff of using city copiers to print out her "Tax Amazon" signs, saying she found it inappropriate. There were 11,600 homeless people living in the county a year ago, according to The Seattle Times.

Administration: $5.3 million (7 percent); Assessing performance and management.

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The city's homeless population is growing, behind only NY and Los Angeles.

The city spent $68 million on homelessness past year, and some said they wanted to see the city prioritize its money better.

Additionally, some of the agencies are getting paid based on meeting certain targets, also known as performance pay, according to a spokeswoman with the Human Services Department. United Way of King County spent around $6.5 million in 2017.

The Seattle metropolitan area also is home to the third-largest concentrations of homeless people, nearly 12,000 counted in a January U.S. government survey, and almost half of them were living on the streets or otherwise unsheltered.

A new McKinsey report estimated addressing current levels of homelessness would require between $360 million and $410 million, twice what the region is spending now.

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