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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