Seattle approves business tax for homelessness

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

While the idea that a company would simply abandon a multi-million-dollar investment halfway isn't really credible, changes to its scheduling, budget and usage plan would certainly affect local contractors - which is why numerous latter showed up to oppose the tax on Amazon's behalf. The remainder would go to homeless services, including shelter beds, camps and overnight parking. The measure is expected to raise an average of $47 million annually to help house and serve homeless residents, as opposed to $75 million under the initial proposal. The plan was supported by Lorena Gonzalez, who voted down another amendment on Friday that would have taxed businesses $250 per employee.

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After the Seattle City Council vote on Monday, the Transit Riders Union, which is affiliated with the Housing for All Coalition, said the new tax would begin alleviating the city's housing crisis.

"This is a moral decision that we are making", Mosqueda said. "It seems like some of the council members, mainly Mrs. Sawant, have gone on the offense against Amazon in particular". Sawant voted against the amended bill, but voted for the final version, saying it was the movement's victory. "We'll be back for more!" "And while council members talk about the sleepless nights they have, I don't think it compares with the hard work and the dedication of the so many hundreds of people in this movement". Denver has enacted a similar tax, and Chicago had one but repealed it. Seattle itself had a head tax in effect from 2006 to 2009 but it was repealed to help businesses in the midst of the recession. The Mayor had also said she would veto the $500 tax if it had passed. She called on her base to continue fighting against "Amazon's extortion". The company lobbied against both tax proposals and Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice president, said the retail giant was disappointed in Monday's vote, according to The New York Times. However, a tax on jobs at any level is bad economic policy and will negatively impact Seattle's economy and city tax revenues. Reducing homelessness will require a transparent, coordinated and comprehensive countywide strategy. So far, mayors in other cities competing for HQ2, as the project is sometimes called, have taken a wait-and-see approach. The move by the world's largest online retailer, owned by billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, put in question more than 7,000 new jobs.

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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.

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