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Seattle To Vote on Controversial Head Tax on Amazon, Others

15 May 2018

The levy, which would apply to businesses that gross at least $20 million a year, would finance affordable housing and homeless services in a city with the third-largest homeless population in the U.S. Amazon's growth is viewed as a factor in the area's skyrocketing housing costs.

The mayor has expressed concern about the potential ramifications on workers in the building and retail industries if Amazon permanently pulls the plug on its planned construction in Seattle. Mayor Durkan and Executive Constantine have taken an important steps toward implementing a regional approach. It's lower than the $500-per-worker tax initially proposed. More than 100 people marched through Amazon's campus Saturday and held a rally outside the company's new spherical greenhouses, some holding signs saying "Tax Amazon". Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan had vowed to veto the larger tax.

Council members worked with central staff over the weekend to find a compromise to the $500 head tax that the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee passed on Friday. The city council would need to review the tax, which kicks in next year, after five years if the city wants to extend it.

Residents showed up two hours before the vote Monday to wait in line and claim a space in the chamber, which was packed to capacity.

The tax that passed Monday will raise $45 to $49 million annually to fight Seattle's homelessness crisis.

The tax is expected to be borne by about 500 companies, accounting for 3 percent of the city's private sector. "So you're either well-off and hungry or homeless and well fed". "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".

"This progressive revenue stream balances the needs of our small business community, while ensuring we have the funding we need to provide critical housing and health services", said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in a statement accompanying the vote.

One council member who stood out from her colleagues was Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

Some opponents of the measure called for greater accountability on how funds addressing homelessness are spent.

The city spent $68 million on homelessness previous year, and some said they wanted to see the city prioritize its money better. "The results are getting worse every year", he said.

Seattle declared a civil state of emergency over homelessness in late 2015. A point-in-time count a year ago tallied more than 11,600 homeless people in King County. Seattle home prices are rising faster there than anywhere else in the country.

"While Amazon didn't single-handedly cause this problem, they have contributed to the growing income inequality, displacement and housing affordability issues facing our city", they said in a statement to The Seattle times earlier this month.

Seattle To Vote on Controversial Head Tax on Amazon, Others