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Seattle's new 'head tax' blasted by city's mega-corporations

15 May 2018

Following a weekend of negotiations between Seattle City Council members and Mayor Jenny Durkan, the council voted unanimously Monday to adopt a new tax on the city's largest employers to help address homelessness.

The coffee giant is just one of an estimated 585 Seattle-based employers that will be hit by the so-called 'head tax.' Those companies represent about 3% of all Seattle businesses, according to Council estimates, with each bringing in annual revenue of $20 million or more in the city.

Hederner, the Amazon vice president, said sharp increases in the city of Seattle's revenues have outpaced the population growth of the city during the same period.

González said she was pleased to have the support of nearly every councilmember - Sawant did not support the amendment, but ended up voting in favor of the tax - but disappointed she couldn't find support for more.

However, he added, "We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here".

Many other Seattle technology leaders opposed the tax as well, but in this case, the old adage "You can't fight city hall" wound up winning out. Free for 14 days - no credit card required!

Supporters and opponents of Seattle's head tax pack City Council chambers for Monday's vote. The tax that made it across the finish line is actually smaller than the original proposal the city was considering.

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The head tax approved on Monday is not the first.

Before the vote, she said the city "has an obligation to take care of the people who are surviving and suffering on our city streets". Almost 600 employers - about 3 percent of all Seattle businesses - would pay the tax starting in 2019.

Both businesses have come out strongly against the tax questioning the city's ability to use tax dollars efficiently and responsibly.

"This City continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside", read a statement from Starbucks' senior vice president of global public affairs and social impact, John Kelly. "If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five-year-old, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable address or opiate addiction".

Shannon Brown, who has been living a tiny home at a south Seattle homeless encampment, said there's simply not enough housing for the city's poorest people.

"They're driving this economic engine", he said. 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.

Despite the fact that the measure passed by the Seattle city council on Monday is significantly smaller than the original $75 million a year tax proposal, Amazon continued its "howls of protest" in a statement on Monday, decrying the new tax as "disappointing" and "anti-business". Today, it has workers in more than 40 buildings and occupies one-fifth of Seattle's first-class office space, totaling more than 10 million square feet.

Seattle's new 'head tax' blasted by city's mega-corporations