Wednesday, 23 May, 2018

Amazon 'Disappointed' in Seattle's New 'Head Tax'

Mayor Jenny Durkan attends the Washington Women in Trades job fair at Seattle Center on Friday Mayor Jenny Durkan attends the Washington Women in Trades job fair at Seattle Center on Friday
Lindsey Cook | 15 May, 2018, 22:34

A parade of hardhat union workers and threats from hometown-behemoth Amazon did not stop Seattle leaders from passing on Monday a "head tax" meant to fund housing projects and homeless services.

The tax, which has been unofficially nicknamed the "Amazon Tax", - named after the online retailer which is headquartered in Seattle - will affect businesses that generate annual revenue of $20 million or more, the Seattle Times reported.

"We appreciate Mayor Durkan's efforts to significantly modify the Council's ill-conceived proposal to tax jobs in Seattle", said Downtown Seattle Association CEO Jon Scholes in a statement, after Durkan introduced her original compromise.

The collected revenue would be used to address the civil state of emergency over homelessness that the city has been in since 2015. "While we have resumed construction planning for Block 18, we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here". Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called Monday's vote a "huge victory" and noted that yearly revenue from the new tax on Amazon will be roughly equivalent to what Bezos makes in an hour. Free for 14 days - no credit card required!

"We have community members who are dying", Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda told The Seattle Times before the vote. The head tax is the largest in US history.

The tax approved Monday is much smaller than the $500-per-head proposal that had been under consideration for many weeks.

The head tax approved on Monday is not the first.

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"Big businesses like Amazon have many tactics to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and it has required true dedication and sacrifice from hundreds of us to bring us to this point".

Durkan, many businesses such as Amazon and construction-worker unions opposed it, as did Council President Bruce Harrell, Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Debora Juarez and Rob Johnson and some voters critical of how City Hall has been spending money. "If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five-year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction".

Speak Out Seattle cofounder Elizabeth James said her group wants an independent audit of all city departments, and for the city to better support law enforcement and funding for drug treatment and mental health services.

"City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8B in 2010 to $4.2B in 2017, and they will be even higher in 2018".

John Kelly, senior vice president, Global Public Affairs & Social Impact at Starbucks, blasted the proposal in a statement released by the company.

"They're driving this economic engine", he said.

About 3 percent of Seattle businesses will be affected and the tax will raise about $47 million per year, according to the council. Separately, the company has committed more than $40 million to two groups: the Mary's Place shelters for homeless families, including space in company buildings; and the FareStart non-profit organization for homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and kids, including space and equipment for FareStart restaurants.

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