Seattle repeals tax on companies like Amazon

13 Juin, 2018, 15:38 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Seattle repeals tax on companies like Amazon

Seattle leaders on Tuesday repealed a tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks after a backlash from businesses, a stark reversal from a month ago when the City Council unanimously approved the effort to combat a growing homelessness crisis. That levy, the biggest piece of legislation yet from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, includes millions to pay for Seattle High School graduates to go to community college.

The council voted 7-2 after supporters and opponents packed a meeting with signs saying, "Tax Amazon, housing for all" and "No tax on jobs", with some shouting for more time to discuss the issue. Amazon, Vulcan, and Starbucks each pledged $25,000 to fund the group gathering signatures to put the head tax to a vote this November.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold said the head tax was "not a winnable battle" at this time.

Homeless service providers say additional resources and new revenue are still desperately needed for a crisis that's only grown more severe in recent years. Critics accused Seattle officials of bending to pressure from Amazon, but Chernin stressed broad opposition to the proposal from across the city's business community.

In a statement, Mayor Durkan and seven council members vowed to continue searching for a solution for the homelessness problem.

In the wake of the passage of the head tax in Seattle, a number of cities in Silicon Valley have been contemplating head taxes of their own to combat traffic congestion and other transportation problems that have arisen as the tech sector dominating the area has grown.

Seattle City Council is considering repealing the controversial per-employee business tax.

It's literally a matter of life or death for the people I work with. Behind the banner, Councilmember Kshama Sawant calls for order. "Bending to big business", Sawant called it. Many anxious that Amazon and others would leave the city, with construction workers in hard hats and safety packing City Hall to object to the tax.

Organizers of the referendum campaign maintain that the city already spends a lot of money on homelessness with few positive results, Ceis said.

The vote showed Amazon's ability to aggressively push back on government taxes, especially in its affluent hometown where it's the largest employer and where some have criticized it for helping cultivate a widening income gap that is pricing lower-income workers out of housing.

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Seattle's so-called head tax would have charged companies about $275 per full-time worker each year for affordable housing and homeless services.

John Kelly, senior vice-president of public affairs for Starbucks, said repealing the tax makes sense.

"We should start with a study of causes and potential solutions and then engage in public debate on how to fund recommended solutions", he said.

"I am deeply troubled and disappointed by the political tactics utilized by a powerful faction of corporations that seem to prioritize corporations over people", Gonzalez said.

"On behalf of those clients, I implore the businesses who opposed the Employee Hours Tax to find a revenue stream and a plan you can support", he continued.

The council will now be looking at alternative measures to tackle the homeless crisis.

The vote came after about an hour of public comment during which people from both sides of the argument shouted at councilmembers. The remarks were impassioned. Please do not repeal this tax...

"We're spending more money because it's a growing issue", he told GeekWire ahead of Tuesday's meeting.

Another, who described himself as a dad, veteran and anarchist, asked council, "Who are you to justify letting people die in the streets?"

Many California cities have imposed similar taxes, but are now considering following in the footsteps of Seattle as they consider repealing the tax. "The system is not working for them, and disrupting it is the only thing they can do".

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