'Tax Amazon': Seattle passes plan for corporate wealth tax to fund housing

'Tax Amazon': Seattle passes plan for corporate wealth tax to fund housing

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.

A quick backgrounder on the tax: previous year, at the end of its annual budget process, the council formed a task force to come up with a progressive tax to pay for housing and services for Seattle's homeless population.

To view the full article, register now. This has led to lack of affordable housing for the people especially students who are becoming homeless at an alarming rate and people are spending more than half their income on housing. Seattle Council member Kshama Sawant has repeatedly called Bezos a "bully" who attempted to extort the city by halting its construction plans.

The company's threat to pause its growth in Seattle comes as 20 cities vie to lure the company's second headquarters and as it expands its workforce in Boston and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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.


Sawant named and criticized her colleagues who opposed the original $500 tax and suggested they are putting the interest of businesses over the homeless.

A compromise that may be presented for the council's consideration Monday would reduce the head tax to $275 per employee and expire it after five years, according to a report in the Seattle Times. After that, it would have risen to an estimated $39 million a year.

John Boufford with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades said he did not understand rhetoric against Amazon, which he noted provides good jobs for thousands of people. "It seems like some of the council members, mainly Mrs. Sawant, have gone on the offense against Amazon in particular".

Amazon has driven Seattle's economy in recent years, drawing thousands of well-paid workers to the region. "The results are getting worse every year", he said. Previous year 169 homeless people died in the city where winter temperatures can fall to minus 7 degrees. Durkan's office had asked about state funding for the city's homelessness crisis. The median price for a house is now $777,000. He said the city's revenue growth has outpaced its population increase. After several months of meetings, and numerous compromises in response to objections from small and low-margin businesses, the task force came up with a plan that would generate about $75 million a year-a $500-per-employee annual tax on businesses with gross revenues above $20 million, a threshold that excludes companies with high gross revenues but tight margins, such as restaurants. One of them told committee members that if the tax passes, workers will have to go home, look their kids in the eye and tell them Daddy doesn't have a job anymore. It would likely owe even more when the tax switches to a 0.7 percent tax on business payroll in 2021. Seattle faces an impossible choice: Either raise revenue from employers and risk driving them away, or keep levying taxes on voters and risk a backlash that could exacerbate the very problem it's trying to solve.

Scruggs reported from Seattle.

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