By unanimous vote, the Seattle City Council on Monday adopted a plan to charge large businesses $275 for each full-time employee – essentially a “head tax” on working people – to finance multi-million-dollar scheme to serve the homeless, and the political tremors are just beginning.
Self-admitted Socialist Councilwoman Kshama Sawant had pushed for a $500 head tax, and initially voted against the smaller amount, which was described as a “compromise.” In the end, however, she joined her council colleagues to make it a unanimous vote.
According to a report last year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington state’s King County, which encompasses Seattle, “has the third largest homelessness population in the country,” the Seattle Weekly reported
Reaction from two of the city’s biggest businesses was swift and blunt. According to KIRO News, the local CBS affiliate, Amazon Vice President Drew Herdener issued a written statement:
“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 future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here. City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8B in 2010 to $4.2B in 2017, and they will be even higher in 2018. This revenue increase far outpaces the Seattle population increase over the same time period. The city does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending efficiency problem. We are highly uncertain whether the city council’s anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better.”
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Earlier, the Seattle P-I.com quoted Herdener from a statement he emailed that said Amazon is “apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”
That was later followed by a statement from John Kelly, Starbucks’ Senior Vice President for Global Public Affairs and Social Impact:
“This City continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside. If they cannot provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction. This City pays more attention to the desires of the owners of illegally parked RVs than families seeking emergency shelter.”
A KIRO survey of 400 registered Seattle voters, published Tuesday, revealed that 54 percent of the people oppose the head tax while only 38 percent support it.
The survey, conducted by Strategies 360 on behalf of KIRO, also found that the original $500 head tax proposal was opposed by 70 percent of the voters and a $350 tax proposal was opposed by 65 percent.
Some critics of Seattle’s programs quietly refer to the homeless as “professional homeless.” They also oppose efforts by the city to establish a “safe injection” site for drug addicts.
Some state lawmakers are already hinting at legislation in January that would nullify the tax. This move could further infuriate lawmakers from around the state who already think Seattle has essentially grown “to big for its britches.”
By no small coincidence, Seattle city leaders have been leading the charge to amend or repeal Washington State’s 35-year-old firearms preemption law that prevents cities and counties from adopting their own gun control ordinances. Three years ago, Seattle also adopted a “gun violence tax” that was challenged by gun rights organizations and two firearms retailers, but was upheld by the state Supreme Court.