Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Amazon makes vague threat after Seattle passes new "head tax"

Protesters attend the Seattle City Council finance committee meeting Friday May 11. The committee voted 5-4 to reject Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal of a more modest tax on large employers to address the city’s homelessness crisis.(Steve Ringman  The Seattle approves plan for 'reasonable' tax on its largest businesses to help pay for housing, homelessness
Kenneth Drake | 15 May, 2018, 22:35

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a tax on large employers Monday that will aid the city's homeless residents - but not before slashing the proposal almost in half over opposition from Amazon, which is headquartered in Seattle, and a veto threat from Mayor Jenny Durkan.

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.

Starbucks executive John Kelly said that the city has failed to adequately address the needs of homeless families and "no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction" in a statement Monday.

González said she was pleased to have the support of nearly every councilmember - Sawant did not support the amendment, but ended up voting in favor of the tax - but disappointed she couldn't find support for more.

While Amazon has resumed construction planning on the downtown building, he said "we remain apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here". Free for 14 days - no credit card required!

The lower tax was the result of feverish negotiations over the weekend between members of the City Council and Seattle's mayor, Jenny Durkan, who had opposed the council's earlier tax proposal.

The head tax has ignited something of an existential debate for Seattle over its monumental growth.

Several members of the nine-person City Council said they were reluctantly voting in favor of the smaller tax because there were not enough votes to override a mayoral veto of the larger tax plan.


Other cities have implemented similar taxes, but critics say Seattle's tax could threaten the booming local economy and drive away jobs.

The head tax approved on Monday is not the first.

Bezos also halted two construction projects in Seattle pending the outcome of the head-tax debate, which Sawant called extortion.

The city councilors who sponsored the new tax said it was time for the company to pay its fair share.

Herdener then turned the tables, suggesting the people holding the city's purse strings are the problem.

He noted that city revenues have grown dramatically and that the city "does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending efficiency problem". "If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five-year-old, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable address or 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. Those on the smaller end of that scale say they fear they will feel the brunt of it.

The tax that passed Monday will raise close to $50 million annually to fight the homelessness crisis. Today, it has workers in more than 40 buildings and occupies one-fifth of Seattle's first-class office space, totaling more than 10 million square feet.

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