William Shakespeare once wrote that “misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Never was that more apparent than May 1 when activists, led by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, drove their cars outside Amazon’s Seattle headquarters to advocate for a tax on big businesses meant to pay for housing and Seattle’s own Green New Deal.
The 1.3 percent tax on payroll exceeding $7 million per year is the newest iteration of efforts to get revenue from Seattle’s biggest businesses. The tax would raise $500 million per year, more than 10 times the amount of the first “employee hours tax” passed and then rescinded by the City Council in 2018.
Councilmembers Sawant and Tammy Morales are sponsors of the tax, which business groups decry as a “tax on jobs.” They advanced three pieces of legislation — the tax itself, a spending plan and an interfund loan that will allow city officials to access $200 million for direct cash payments to struggling Seattleites before the end of the year. Actual proceeds of the tax will otherwise not come due until 2022.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has signaled her displeasure, telling reporters that it cannot solve the financial problems the city is facing due to the coronavirus. Sales taxes and taxes on business activity have all plummeted, leaving a possible $300 million hole in the city’s budget. Large businesses, like Amazon, have to pay their fair share, advocates wrote in an email publicizing the event.
“These same large corporations and their politicians have the gall to tell us ‘we’re all in this together,’ but when we try to Tax Amazon and big business less than a measly 1% of their income to fund crisis relief, affordable housing and union jobs, they call us divisive and irresponsible, and threaten to cut more jobs in retaliation,” organizers wrote.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more of the May 6-12, 2020 issue.