— Gary Horcher (@GaryKIRO7) May 1, 2018
With reporting by SCC Insight
A day after a lone May Day protester was arrested for trying to toss a rock through the Amazon Spheres, the world’s
third fourth most valuable company returned fire Wednesday announcing it would halt planning on its new “Block 18” commercial office tower and considering subleasing their space in the Rainier Square building, pending the Seattle City Council’s decision on whether to enact a proposed new tax on big businesses that would cost the company $20 million annually.
The move set off a firestorm of responses from politicians. The Seattle Times quotes a spokesperson for Governor Jay Inslee saying that Amazon had raised the topic of the tax with the governor, and that he hopes there is room for compromise. The newspaper also quotes Mayor Jenny Durkan, who recently sent a letter to the City Council expressing her concerns with the proposed tax. Durkan expressed concerns about the jobs impact if Amazon follows through, and pledging to work with the council and business and labor leaders to strike a deal.
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Amazon’s maneuvering came just before the council was scheduled to hold a committee hearing Wednesday to discuss issues and possible amendments related to the tax legislation and the accompanying spending plan. The tense session included District 3 representative Kshama Sawant characterizing Amazon’s move as “extortion.” The council member previously held a “tax Amazon” town hall to rally support for the legislation including a protest outside Amazon’s headquarters.
Council member Sally Bagshaw said she was concerned about the impact on jobs. “We need to find out if the jobs are really going to be impacted and I’m interested in the construction group,” Bagshaw said. “The building and construction trades have sent us a letter as well, saying this is going to impact some of their jobs, so we need to know about that.”
Later Wednesday afternoon, the four council members sponsoring the tax legislation — Lorena Gonzalez, Lisa Herbold, Teresa Mosqueda and Mike O’Brien — issued a joint press release in response to Amazon. In it they said, “This was never a proposal targeting one company, but Amazon made the conversation about them when they expressed their intentions to pause construction on their new office tower pending a vote on our Progressive Tax on Business.”
In the same press release they quote Amazon’s recent earnings reports and note that “Seattle has become the nation’s biggest company town.”
Amazon alone will pay about 26% of the total revenues raised by the new tax.
Wednesday’s rough day for the “Amazon tax” finished with a contentious “town hall” held in Ballard to solicit community feedback on the proposed new tax on large businesses hosted by O’Brien whose district includes Ballard.