Seattle wants housing for the homeless; Amazon, others to pay more tax


The Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to impose a new tax on large employers to raise nearly $50 million in funding for affordable housing construction and homeless services.

Affordable housing advocates have held several events in support of the "head tax" at Amazon's Seattle headquarters.

In a statement issued Monday, Vice President Drew Herdener said the company would resume construction on the downtown tower but was considering whether Seattle is the place for it to grow. It also is rethinking filling office space in another leased building.

After months of debate, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a $275-per-employee tax on for-profit companies that make more than $20 million a year. The city council would need to review the tax, which kicks in next year, after five years if the city wants to extend it. The report states it would take "between $360 million and $410 million a year to tackle current levels of homelessness-that's twice today's spending".

Even though the company made a decision to resume one of its building projects, Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice president, said in a statement, "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".

Underscoring Amazon's battle with its hometown is the company's search for a second headquarters in another North American city.

ADNOC's $45bn downstream, facilities investment to create 15000 jobs
Our per capita energy consumption is very modest which will increase in the coming years. We have a growth rate of around 7 percent plus.

Councilmeber Lorena González came forward on May 14 with the amendment that reduced the tax to $275 per employee, which she said was in line with "political realities". 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. With more than 40,000 employees and counting, Amazon is at the center of the conversation and the explicit target of Sawant, who has called the proposal "Tax Amazon Legislation".

As Next City has reported in the past, Seattle is the only city in the country to have one of the top five highest tax burdens for people earning $25,000 or less while also having one of the lowest tax burdens for people earning more than $150,000.

While Amazon's share of the head tax - proposed at 26 cents per employee per hour in the $75 million plan - would have been about $20 million, councilmembers that voted against it cited the impact it would have on other businesses.

Noting that the so-called "head tax" is quite modest relative to Amazon's annual revenue and the pay of its CEO Jeff Bezos-the world's richest man-socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant argued on Monday that "even a smaller tax is a huge victory", given the "Goliath-like clout of Amazon".

Seattle is far from the only big city to have wrestled with increasing populations of homeless people, however, as housing costs have risen in recent years.

"When I looked at this new revenue tax stream, I think we have to convince the public that we are using it wisely and strategically, and I think we've failed in that regard as a city", he said. The mayor had publicly hinted that she would veto the original tax proposal because of the risks she said it posed to the local economy. "We have community members who are dying", Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said before the vote, according to The Seattle Times.