Seattle OKs taxing companies like Amazon to aid the homeless

King County Executive Dow Constantine delivers the 2017 State of the County address in Auburn

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a tax on large employers Monday that will aid the city's homeless residents - but not before slashing the proposal almost in half over opposition from Amazon, which is headquartered in Seattle, and a veto threat from Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Mayor Jenny Durkan, who expressed concern that the original proposal would lead to an economic backlash, said she would sign the new tax ordinance into law.

Sponsors of the tax said Seattle's biggest-earning businesses should bear some burden for easing a shortage in low-priced housing that they helped create by driving up real estate prices to the point where the working poor and many middle-class families can no longer afford to live in the city.

We are disappointed by today's City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs.

"While we have resumed construction planning for Block 18, we remain very apprehensive about the hostile approach and rhetoric towards larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here", company vice president Drew Herdener said. The new tax will take effect in 2019. Free for 14 days - no credit card required!

City Council member Teresa Mosqueda says this is an emergency measure to solve a crisis in the city.

Head taxes are extremely rare in the USA and the ones in place are a fraction of Seattle's proposal.

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The tax approved Monday is much smaller than the $500-per-head proposal that had been under consideration for many weeks.

Supporters cite data showing Seattle's median home prices have soared to $820,000, and more than 41 percent of renters in the city ranked as "rent-burdened", meaning they pay at least 30 percent of their income on housing.

"This was a tough debate in our city", she said. Representatives of businesses warned that the tax would drive employers out of town, while others speakers questioned whether Seattle's city government could be trusted to spend the additional tax revenue wisely. Neither side supported the compromise, and most speakers blamed city leaders for an escalating homelessness crisis that has seen city sidewalks, parks and roadsides packed with tents and shacks. "If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a 5-year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction".

John Kelly, senior vice president, Global Public Affairs & Social Impact at Starbucks, blasted the proposal in a statement released by the company.

He noted that city revenues have grown dramatically and that the city "does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending efficiency problem".

"Taxing jobs will not fix our region's housing and homelessness problems", said Strickland, who went on to praise Durkan for her role in the compromise. Those on the smaller end of that scale say they fear they will feel the brunt of it. The tax will now generate $47 million a year, and it will run for five years, rather than turning into a payroll tax after a two-year run.

"P$3 ending the outcome of the head-tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning", a company spokesperson told The Seattle Times earlier this month.

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