What’s next for Seattle’s head tax? Sawant pivoting on ‘Tax Amazon Movement’ after repeal

Even as they voted to repeal it, Seattle City Council members said Tuesday that an employee hours tax is probably the city’s best route forward to creating an alternative, non-regressive revenue stream to combat Seattle’s affordability crisis. The moves begin, now, to come up with a new, stronger tax plan.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, who has claimed the “Tax Amazon movement” as a follow-up to the successful $15 minimum wage fight, will be first out of the gates for shaping what comes next, saying Tuesday in council chambers that a “Tax Amazon Movement: Campaign Launch & Organizing Conference” is still happening. Continue reading

Good news, Amazon, Seattle won’t be taxing you after all — UPDATE: Repealed


UPDATE 2:10 PM: In a vote interrupted by a chanting crowd and District 3 representative Kshama Sawant’s refusal to voice her yay or nay despite threats from President Bruce Harrell that he would close council chambers if outbursts continued, the Seattle City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to repeal the city’s yet-to-be-implemented, unanimously-passed head tax on Seattle’s largest businesses.

As she seemingly goaded on her supporters in the council chambers, Sawant paused and let the chants swell before finally casting her vote against the repeal. Continue reading

Up against a wall of *if*, here’s *how* Seattle head tax money would be spent on Capitol Hill


If it survives a voter referendum cooked up this week by business and economic groups opposing the plan… And if the spending plan put forward by the City Council somehow can survive mayoral opposition…

How much of the roughly $237 million over five years in head tax revenue will come to Capitol Hill? The short answer is, some, but it’s too early to say exactly. A Seattle City Council resolution, however, gives a starting point. Along with the head tax, the council approved a companion resolution that laid out broad preliminary plans for the windfall of cash.

The resolution is non-binding and could change during the council’s budget process in the fall. Additionally, the Mayor Jenny Durkin’s office has indicated that she opposes the preliminary spending plans, council staff say. Continue reading

‘No Tax on Jobs’ campaign seeks to overturn Seattle big business tax

A group opposing the tax on Seattle big businesses to help pay for the city’s homelessness services and, hopefully, more affordable housing says it is launching a $300,000 campaign to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal the newly approved legislation.

The No Tax on Jobs campaign launched over the weekend with a website — notaxonjobs.com — and support from heavy hitters like the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Seattle Association.

“The reason we’re starting with a referendum is because we don’t have time to let the council shut down growth like this,” Saul Spady, president of Cre8ive Empowerment and part of the family that own’s Dick’s Drive-in, told Crosscut about the campaign. Continue reading

What we heard at the ‘March on Amazon’ as Seattle business tax fight comes to a head

With reporting and photography by Alex Garland

With its planned vote on a new tax on its largest 3% of Seattle businesses, the city will be up against history Monday afternoon, District 3 representative and Socialist Alternative firebrand Kshama Sawant said Saturday as she prepared to lead her “March on Amazon.”

“This will be a historic victory,” Sawant told CHS. “This will be seen by every city where Amazon is building towers. But also every city in the United States. Because every city is facing a housing and homelessness crisis.”

But first the deals must be struck. Saturday’s march and rally from Capitol Hill on the massive Seattle employer came as Seattle City Hall contemplates two futures for a tax on its largest companies to help pay for affordable housing and homelessness services in a booming city where the problems of people living unsheltered is teetering on disaster. Continue reading

Behind Capitol Hill small biz roundtable and Saturday’s March on Amazon, Seattle biz tax maneuverings swirl — UPDATE

With reporting by SCC Insight

UPDATE 12:45 PM: With Durkan’s surprise counter proposal defeated. the Herbold/Gonzalez legislation was approved out of committee Friday but now faces a battle in securing a crucial sixth supporter before Monday’s full council vote. With negotiations underway, Saturday’s activism won’t be a victory march but could end up as a show of power to help change the tally and leave the mayor’s hands tied on the so-called Amazon tax. UPDATEx2: Durkan has released a statement saying she “cannot support” the legislation passed Friday. The full statement is below.

Seattle City Council members Lisa Herbold and Lorena Gonzalez were slated to be on Capitol Hill Friday morning to talk with small businesses about the proposed tax on large employers. But the deals may have already been cut on the plan to raise revenue to help pay for homelessness services and housing — before any further roundtables and before any marches on Amazon.

District 3 rep Kshama Sawant and supporters are now framing Seattle’s push for an employee tax on large companies as another historical moment for the city akin to the $15/hour minimum wage fight. “This is a key moment in Seattle’s history,” a statement from the Affordable Housing Alliance reads. “We have a chance to make the richest man in the world pay to build union-built, publicly-owned, affordable housing. This would be an inspiration to the rest of the country as cities offer tax incentive after tax incentive to attract Amazon’s HQ2. Let’s turn this race to the bottom into a race to the top.”

UPDATE: Herbold and Gonzalez Friday morning at Elliott Bay Book Co. in a meeting with Hill business representatives on the mayor’s tax proposal: “We’re looking forward to learning more about”

Gonzalez and Herbold’s meeting with Hill business constituents, meanwhile, comes before a key council committee meeting Friday and in the wake of a Mayor Durkan-fired shot across the bow of the veto-able raft of five council members said to support the $75 million employee tax legislation. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Chamber to hold roundtable with Council members on business tax proposal

The debate over the proposed Seattle business tax has turned into a fight. Next week, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce is bringing neighborhood business representatives for a “roundtable discussion” with City Council members on the proposed tax:

Capitol Hill Chamber Roundtable Discussion with Council members re: Tax on Business

“It is important that small business SPEAK UP as Councilmembers finalize their proposal,” the Chamber implores.

The proposal from the council’s Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold aims to raise at least $75 million annually to address the twin crises of affordable housing for the city’s most vulnerable people, and the increasing number of people living unsheltered. It comes in two parts: an ordinance that enacts the tax, and a resolution that lays out the spending plan.

Threat of Amazon construction halt throws proposed Seattle business tax for a loop

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. Continue reading

Here’s how Seattle’s proposed tax on businesses to pay for homelessness services would work


With reporting by SCC Insight

The Seattle City Council’s proposed legislation to impose a new tax on businesses to help pay for homelessness services has finally seen the light of day and will begin its path through the council chambers with a committee meeting this week.

The proposal from the council’s Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold aims to raise at least $75 million annually to address the twin crises of affordable housing for the city’s most vulnerable people, and the increasing number of people living unsheltered. It comes in two parts: an ordinance that enacts the tax, and a resolution that lays out the spending plan. Continue reading

Mayor wants Seattle to open ‘school to opportunity pipeline’ with new education levy

Inside Capitol Hill’s Miller Annex Preschool and with a focus on jobs, income, and affordability, Mayor Jenny Durkan Wednesday made her first pitch to Seattle citizens for a new education levy her office says will cost typical households just under $21 a month — about $7 more than they have been paying to help pay for the Seattle Public Schools system and its some 53,000 students at more than 100 schools.

“The increase comes from us doing the two things that we know are vital. Increasing pre-school so that more kids come to school ready to learn. And giving kids that opportunity to go to college,” the mayor said Wednesday in a speech focused on the economy as much as it was on learning. Continue reading