Council member responds to head tax criticism

Daniel Fowler
May 17, 2018

Shannon Brown, 55, 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.

Since existing shelters are at capacity, additional revenue is needed to get more people into new shelters and low-income housing - which is why, she says, 66 percent of the tax plan is targeting just that.

The tax is expected to raise about $48 million a year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services. One state Republican lawmaker said he would seek legislation next year to make clear that a city tax on employees, wages or hours is illegal.

The law imposes a tax of $275 per employe per year on companies grossing more than $20 million in Seattle. "While we have resumed construction planning for Block 18, 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".

The "head tax", as it is commonly called, was pushed principally by socialist city council member Kshama Sawant and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - one of the largest labor unions in the U.S.

"City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8 billion in 2010 to $4.2 billion in 2017, and they will be even higher in 2018".

"Drew Herdener, Amazon vice president, recently released a statement arguing, "[Seattle] does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending efficiency problem".

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Seattle's city council voted for a new tax on large employers in the city. Publicly traded companies are not required to break out their total employees or revenue per city.

"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", said Kelly.

"With every $100 increase in rent, we see a 15 percent increase in homelessness, " said Mosqueda.

"People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity". "We are highly uncertain whether the city council's anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better".

Median rents have doubled since 2010, according to real estate firm Zillow, and the area has the third highest homeless population in the nation, according to US government statistics. Thanks to politicians' sympathetic ear when it comes to the plight of the rich, Amazon will pocket an estimated $789 million this year, easily offsetting the $10 million it'll pay Seattle to improve the city it calls home.

Jason Anderson, who lives in a village of shed-sized "tiny houses" that the city permits as temporary housing, said the measure is a victory nonetheless.

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