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Sawant targets ‘preemption’ in pushback on plan for King County big business tax

“Learn more about the Tax Amazon Movement,” front and center on Sawant’s City Council page

When it comes to taxing “big business,” Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant is hoping to preempt “preemption.”

The socialist representative for Central Seattle is holding a news conference Friday night in City Hall with “union members, renters rights activists, socialists, rank-and-file Democratic party members, and faith leaders” to “speak out against the threat of a statewide ban on big business taxes in Seattle, known as ‘preemption.'”

CHS reported late last month about a state proposal that would open the door for King County to tax large employers to support housing and homelessness services.

Many of the area’s largest companies including Amazon and Microsoft have said they will support the state bill — if legislators add restrictions preempting cities from passing their own taxes on businesses to pay for housing and homelessness.

Under the proposed legislation, Washington counties with populations greater than 2 million would be allowed to enact a 0.1% to 0.2% tax on the payrolls of large employers. There would be a myriad of qualifications. For one, only companies with employees making more than $150,000 would be taxed and the pay of any employees making less than the $150,000 threshold would be deducted. Grocery businesses would be exempted as would any business with 50 or fewer employees if half of those workers make less than $150,000. And there could be more exemptions to come.

The 43rd District’s Rep. Nicole Macri and Rep. Frank Chopp co-sponsored the original bill. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine support the bill and have said the tax could raise $121 million per year.

Sawant has made a revived “Tax Amazon” movement a key component of her third term at City Hall. Sawant’s office says her plan for a Seattle tax on large companies would would raise between $200 million and $500 million annually.

In 2018, the city council passed and then rolled back a $275 per full-time employee tax on companies reporting $20 million or greater in annual “taxable gross receipts.” That tax would have generated about $50 million annually.

This weekend, Sawant will hold a Tax Amazon Action Conference at the Central District’s Washington Hall. Hearings on the state proposal, meanwhile, will continue in Olympia.

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9 thoughts on “Sawant targets ‘preemption’ in pushback on plan for King County big business tax

  1. I think big business should pay their fair share, but I just do not trust Seattle with all that tax money. We have spent millions every year since McMurray was mayor, and have nothing to show for it.

  2. What do financially insecure people in a capitalist society need? Where does financial security come from? What would keep people in their homes and satisfy the rabid demands of wealthy landlords and debtors? CASH MONEY! No bloated government plan to take money, waste half of it and deliver expensive sub par services to those in need. The apartments are there and all people need to enter the market is money. Cash rental assistance NOW!

  3. Companies will just pass this on to their employees and the consumer in higher costs, so really big business won’t be paying for it, the rest of us will.

  4. So Amazon just announced an expansion of personnel in Bellevue.


    And why? Exactly because of these ongoing issues around taxation….

    Isn’t it obvious that, given the very business friendly Eastside with its many acres of develop-able land, that businesses like Amazon will just change jurisdictions?

    I mean…they can build the same office towers on the Eastside, and have access to the same talent base, at a fraction of the price AND avoid Seattle taxation specifically targeted to them.

    It’s really a no-brainer.

    And, as usual, Sawant doesn’t care as she’s really only interested in being an ideologue on a soapbox.


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