Seattle a step away from approving new ‘progressive revenue’ tax on big businesses to help overcome COVID-19 budget crisis

With reporting by Seattle City Council Insight

Taking a route closer to the middle ground on bridging Seattle’s coming COVID-19 crisis revenue gap, the Seattle City Council approved “progressive revenue bill” CB 119810 out of committee Wednesday, that will create a new tax on the city’s largest businesses that could generate more than $200 million a year for city services.

“Today we voted on a major structural change in how we finance public services,” South Seattle rep and co-sponsor Tammy Morales said about the passage. “Throughout this renewed budget conversation, I voiced my strong desire to see a sizable progressive revenue package that begins to address the enormity of the issues our city faces.”

The proposal will create a payroll expense tax on businesses located in Seattle with more than $7 million in gross payroll on “high income earning employees.” Continue reading

Seattle City Council: Amazon tax alternative, biased loitering laws, and a capital gains tax proposal

Catching up on a few things at City Hall not directly related to the Capitol Hill protest zone, here are a few recent updates from the Seattle City Council:

  • Loitering laws: The council Monday voted to repeal two loitering laws advocates say have been used by police to target Black and Indigenous people and other people of color and vulnerable populations like sex workers. “I’ve committed to preventing disproportionate impacts on communities of color by police interactions and this is just one fix to our city laws,” said council member Alex Pedersen, one of three on the council bringing the bills forward for Monday’s unanimous votes. Seattle Police leeway to arrest people Seattle Reentry Workgroup formed “Continue reading

Seattle City Council looking at $200M alternative to Sawant-Morales Amazon tax

Early designs for the Amazon spheres

With reporting by SCC Insight

Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda has unveiled her own progressive revenue proposal for the city, which is at once both a “light” version of her colleagues’ “Amazon tax” proposal, and also even more explicitly targeted at the online retailing giant.

It has been Seattle’s worst-kept secret that Mosqueda has been shopping around various forms of an alternative to the $500 million payroll tax that council members Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales introduced earlier this year. Tuesday, Mosqueda called a press conference with representatives from business, labor, and advocacy groups to highlight the efforts she has put into trying to build a consensus around her proposal, which she calls “Jump Start Seattle.

Under the proposal to help the city bridge an estimated $550 million budget shortfall from the COVID-19 crisis, companies with payrolls of $7 million or more would be taxed 0.7% for every employee making over $150,000, and 1.4% for employees making over $500,000. In the near term, the tax would not go into effect until 2021 so Mosqueda’s proposal would borrow from emergency and general funds. Later the tax would be used to replenish the borrowed funds and then provide around $200 million a year for affordable housing, equitable development, and economic support for small businesses. Mosqueda’s office says around 97% of businesses in Seattle would be exempted from the tax. Continue reading

Sawant goes it alone in rogue ‘Amazon Tax’ committee meeting

The inauguration night upporters couldn’t be at Thursday’s committee in person but Sawant said they tuned in with “more than 100 members of the public” taking part in the virtual meeting

There was only one Seattle City Council member logged in to participate in Thursday night’s “rogue” committee meeting on an “Amazon Tax.”

The major proposal from Central Seattle representative Kshama Sawant to tax big business to the tune of $500 million per year seemed to be moving through the council last month. It had a public hearing in late April and seemed on its way to a committee vote this month. But it was suddenly stymied as council president Lorena González tabled the tax proposal over concerns that dealing with the legislation could violate public meetings law during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sawant announced she would take up discussion of the proposed legislation in a committee she controlled despite the warnings, a rogue move in defiance of Gonzalez’s decision.

Sawant’s special meeting of her Sustainability & Renters’ Rights Committee Thursday evening continued discussion of the measure she made the centerpiece of her reelection last fall.

But Thursday night, Sawant was the only council member in attendance.

“Let’s be very clear here: the Democratic Party political establishment is trying to use the cover of legal arguments — and not very competent ones at that — to try and quash our growing movement and protect big business from taxation,” Sawant said. Continue reading

Faced with roadblocks in Seattle City Hall, Sawant plans rogue committee meeting on ‘Amazon Tax’ proposal

Stymied at Seattle City Hall so far on her quest for an Amazon Tax and watching political alliance forge in the run-up to her reelection last fall dissolve, City Council member Kshama Sawant says she will make a bid this week to take back control of legislation to create a COVID-19 relief fund and a new tax on Seattle’s largest businesses to pay for affordable housing.

Sawant announced she is taking up discussion this week of the relief funding and new tax in the council committee she controls, a rogue move in defiance of council President Lorena Gonzalez’s decision last week to table the tax over concerns about violations of public meeting laws during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The argument that our virtual, open, filmed, broadcast, recorded council meetings are not open enough, justifying cancelling those meetings in a backroom deal, and claiming this is in defense of open public meetings, is truly Orwellian,” the announcement of Sawant’s planned Thursday night meeting of her Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee reads: Continue reading

Limited by COVID-19 crisis, Tax Amazon wants to take ballot initiative signature gathering online in Seattle

Friday’s “caravan” to Amazon (Image: @TaxAmazonMvt)

It’s not easy gathering 21,000 signatures during a pandemic.

City Council representative Kshama Sawant and advocates for a new tax on Seattle’s largest businesses are calling for changes in the rules governing signature gathering in the city during the COVID-19 crisis.

The group Tax Amazon announced Monday that the National Lawyers Guild is joining the fight to move the process online:

Across the country, organizers are evaluating the way forward for signature gathering for citizen-lead ballot initiatives and grassroots candidates. Organizers cannot canvass to collect paper signatures while respecting the scientist-recommended and necessary social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID19. Citizen-led ballot initiatives are an integral tool for working-class people to exercise democracy under this highly unequal political system. The National Lawyers Guild is standing alongside the Tax Amazon campaign to call on city and state governments to protect democratic rights during the pandemic. In the absence of online signatures, campaigns will be forced to rely on extremely expensive mass mailing campaigns, which will disproportionately benefit corporate-backed campaigns.

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