Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Seattle To Repeal Biz Tax After Amazon Backlash

Just weeks after passing a new tax on big businesses, Seattle political leaders signaled late Monday they would reverse course and repeal it.

According to The Hill, Mayor Jenny Durkan and city council President Bruce Harrell said in statements that they would end the tax, initially meant to combat rising homelessness in a city where housing prices have soared.

"We heard you," Durkan and seven of the nine city council members said in a statement. "This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis."

Business groups, led by the city's largest employers like Amazon and Starbucks, had raised $200,000 in just a few weeks to gather signatures for a referendum challenging the new tax. They had planned to submit those signatures on Tuesday in an effort to place the referendum on the November ballot.

The details: The tax would have fallen on businesses that generated more than $20 million in revenue. The 585 businesses in the city that qualified would have faced a $275-per-employee tax, money that would have gone to pay for affordable housing and programs aimed at curbing homelessness.

A study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce, however, found the tax would have cost Seattle about 14,300 jobs and $3.5 billion in economic output. The council expected the head tax to raise $47 million in revenue.

Several big businesses, led by Amazon, which employs 45,000 workers in Seattle, objected to the tax. Amazon put a hold on projects that would have added another 7,000 new jobs in the city, and began exploring options to sublease thousands of square feet of downtown office space.

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