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South Seattle rep Morales joins Sawant push on $300M ‘Tax Amazon’ legislation

(Image: @TaxAmazonMvt)

Capitol Hill’s representative to the Seattle City Council introduced a new partner — and some new math — Wednesday morning in her effort to create a new payroll tax on the city’s largest employers to pay for housing and homelessness services.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant announced that her new District 2 colleague Tammy Morales, representing South Seattle, has joined as co-sponsor of the so-called Tax Amazon legislation, Sawant’s proposal to create a payroll tax on the city’s largest 3% of businesses in Seattle that her office says would raise $300 million annually.

The proposal also has some new math in the equation — the city legislators now say the tax on large companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Expedia can be lower than first planned and still generate similar revenue.

In Olympia, meanwhile, proposals from 43rd District Rep. Nicole Macri to create a law at the state level that would allow King County to institute a smaller tax on businesses have so far fallen short on support. Tech companies including Amazon and Microsoft have been reluctant to support the bills without restrictions preempting cities from passing their own taxes on businesses to pay for housing and homelessness.

The statewide proposals some say could undermine a Seattle Tax Amazon effort would allow King County to enact a 0.1% to 0.2% tax on the payrolls of large employers. In Seattle, a tax at the scale could generate $121 million per year.

In Seattle, Sawant continues to put the Tax Amazon effort at the top of her agenda. Sunday, organizers say hundreds of people marched from Cal Anderson to the Amazon spheres to support a tax and speak out against any attempts at preemption at the state level.

In an interview this week with technology news site Gizmodo, Sawant made claims that Amazon selected Seattle as its headquarters because Jeff Bezos was “seeking out corporate tax havens.”

“There’s a history that shows you how we didn’t really they wanted some sort of tax haven in California. But as it turned out, the government said, well, that’s against the law because it’s native land. And then so they came to Seattle,” she says in the interview. “And again, as I said, it’s not a coincidence because Seattle and Washington state have the nation’s most regressive tax system.”

In the interview, in addition to calling Mayor Jenny Durkan “Amazon’s mayor,” Sawant also continues to hold out the possibility of a ballot initiative if the route to business tax through city council chambers is stymied.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Sawant this week were granted more time before a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission hearing on allegations the District 3 representative used her office to promote a potential Tax Amazon ballot measure, a potential violation of city law. Sawant could be fined up to $5,000 per violation.

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23 thoughts on “South Seattle rep Morales joins Sawant push on $300M ‘Tax Amazon’ legislation” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. “Tax Amazon,” just means increased prices for Amazon customers, unless Sawant has a magical new method of preventing Amazon from passing expenses on to consumers.

    • Additionally, she described in the quote why her plan is likely to fail. She said it was Amazon chose Seattle because of the favorable tax environment. If the tax environment is no longer favorable, why shouldn’t Amazon un-choose Seattle? They just have office space and distro centers, stuff that’s easy to move.
      Seattle already has one of the highest per person tax rates of any city of comparable size. What are they doing with all that money?

      • Amazon *is* un-choosing Seattle. They have been growing a ton in Bellevue and will continue to do so. Also they’re working on their HQ2 near DC.

        A lot of their space in Seattle is leased, and just like the Rainier Tower deal that they backed out of during the last head tax debacle, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of those leases don’t get renewed and we see more shift to the Eastside.

        This is why a county-wide approach would be better. Seattle will just end up driving office work outside the city limits, which will hurt the city economy but not do anything for housing since their workers probably won’t move.

      • Exactly.

        Amazon is already doing it, and you’ll see more companies doing so as well if this continues.

        Ditto for other cities outside the Seattle city limits, and if this really picks up steam you’ll start to see Tacoma trying to lure tech firms down south.

        What these people don’t get is that taxation of this type can’t be implemented at the city level, even in all of King county it would be difficult.

        They are literally killing the goose that laid the golden egg….

      • PD, would you mind explaining to all non-Amazon employees where exactly we can find the “golden egg” that you’re referring to? Is it hidden under the pathetic little piece of astro turf that’s wedged in between Bezos’ balls and Day 1? If I remember correctly, that “park” has been called a “public benefit” in the past…when the company wanted the City to ok their HQ plans which required several alley vacations…

      • How do you think the city’s budget has grown over the past decade? More jobs + more construction/development = more tax revenue for the city.

        Amazon’s federal tax issues aside, their impact on the local tax base is massive and what enables the Council to pay for their pet projects.

        So maybe trying to constructively work with Amazon instead of vilifying them would be a better idea. I get that it doesn’t score points with the Kshama Sawant disciples, but if Amazon packs up and leaves, there’s no guarantee another high-paying employer will be breaking down the door to take their place and replace the lost tax base.

    • Thanks, Adam.

      I do not understand how the anti-Amazon crowd can continue to think their agenda can be enacted in any way at the municipal level.

      It cannot.

      And we’re already seeing some of the effects: Amazon announced the move of many, many jobs recently to the Eastside.

      And why? Well, a better taxation environment, donchaknow?

      Plus, there’s just so much greenfield development space on the other side of the lake…buying some lot with, what?, a gas station or some 1960s lowrise buildings and putting up a 20+ story tower with all the requisite amenities in Bellevue is, well, easy.

      And Amazon has the benefit of still having access to the region’s talent base.

      So…this agenda is doomed to failure.

      I just wish the anti-Amazon crowd would be more constructive in their criticisms.

    • btwn
      on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 – 2:59 pm said:
      “an entire professional workforce is not easy to move.”

      It’s entirely down to cost vs benefit.

      • Anyone who thinks “an entire professional workforce is not easy to move” might be interested in this communication Microsoft sent out on Wednesday to all its employees in Puget Sound and Bay Area:

        “Puget Sound and Bay Area work from home updates:

        Consistent with King County guidance, we are recommending all employees who are in a job that can be done from home should do so through March 25th. Taking these measures will ensure your safety and also make the workplace safer for those that need to be onsite. ”

        And just like that, probably 50% (or more?) of Microsoft employees in Seattle started working from home. (I don’t know what % it is, but it’s A LOT). With one day notice.

        Now, if they can instantly tell so many people to not come into the office if their job can be done remotely, what would stop them moving that job permanelty just as quickly? Yes, any big city would have the same threats to the Corona virus, but that’s not the point. The point is the jobs can easily be moved in a heartbeat. You don’t believe it? Keep this BS up and watch how fast they decamp to elsewhere.

  2. A city-specific 0.7% payroll tax is hardly the kind of thing that will put a strain on Amazon, or other big business for that matter.

    The benefit to the city, however, would be enormous. An extra 300 million to build affordable housing seems well worth the pinprick on the top 3% of corporations in Seattle.

    • If Seattle could get $300 million and actually spend it on helping homeless people, that would be great.

      The question still remains unanswered: What has the Seattle government been doing with the millions upon millions they already receive in taxes?

      For most people, it just seems like even more money to squander. What proof do we have that they would use it the way they say the will?

      • So by your ‘logic’ let’s not do anything or let Council raise any money for anything ever. Sounds like a fantastic plan. And btw, for most people its not more money to squander. MOST people voted for Sawant and believe Council will raise and direct these funds where they are needed.

      • Couldn’t agree more. I can’t remember how many times I wrote to the mayor and her office asking what they’re going to do with all that money when all I personally see around here is things getting worse (granted, that’s very subjective but still based on observations). It’s not just about affordable housing, but treatment options etc. – you can’t make homelessness just go away by offering affordable housing. That’s an illusion. I don’t have a magic solution so don’t even bother asking/criticising me for that.

        While we’re at it – yes big corporations should pay their fare share to make sure we can finance programs for the greater good. But do we really have to vilify “the rich”, or call out individual corporations (i.e. Amazon) as something evil all the time? That doesn’t help anyone and isn’t constructive. What’s it with all that hate (other than garnering attention to get you re-elected)? Everyone, which includes folks who have the privilege to read an online source such as this, can and should spare the money to help out their fellow humans. Period. Stop shouting at each other.

      • @NWtransplant: I agree completely that there must be a greater emphasis on getting all the addicted homeless into treatment, as well as into housing. One cannot be successful without the other.

        It would be interesting to know how much of the $200 million (currently spent on homelessness in King Co.) is going to expanding treatment options. I suspect it’s not much.

      • I would add that we urgently need a greatly expanded mental health system, to help the numerous people on our streets with obvious mental illness. This must include much more community outreach to identify affected individuals, followed by acute/inpatient/short-term evaluation (in places like Harborview or Fairfax) to diagnose and get them started on medication…and then longer-term residential placement such as psychiatric group homes or even Western State, so that they can be sure to get their medication and stay on it.

        Yes, these things will be expensive. I would support the $300 million “Amazon Tax” IF it specifically earmarked the money to what I suggest.

    • We are swimming in tax revenue. There’s a huge surplus this year. They don’t need more. They need to do better with that they have. Stop fucking with the region’s employers just to rile up the perpetually angry Sawant mob dipshits. It will never be enough for them so just tune them out.

  3. Marcus
    on Thursday, March 5, 2020 – 4:02 pm said:
    “So by your ‘logic’ let’s not do anything or let Council raise any money for anything ever. Sounds like a fantastic plan. And btw, for most people its not more money to squander. MOST people voted for Sawant and believe Council will raise and direct these funds where they are needed.”

    The question still remains unanswered: What has the Seattle government been doing with the millions upon millions they already receive in taxes?

    I don’t care what others believe. I only care about proof.

  4. And this remains to be a desperate and ignorant argument. The question remains (for you) because you haven’t looked at one of the many data sources readilly available to show you how the City budget is spent. It’s kind of like having a petulant crybaby child that throws a tantrum because you won’t buy them they toy they want and is never happy with the toy they get.

    • As usual, rather than answering the question, you go for the personal attack.

      You are the one who claims the city meeds more money. That means *you* are the one who needs to prove it.

      Until you back up your statements, I have no reason to believe that you know what you are talking about.

  5. Capitalists Fuck Off! The Evolution is coming (not Revolution, so don’t pee your pants weenie status quo Americants). We need City funded Cash Rental Assistance NOW! Our society must evolve to meet the needs of it citizens and further advance its goals. The Evolution is Coming!

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