Seattle Kills Tax in Face of Formidable Foe: Amazon

City council rolls back tax it had unanimously approved last month
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2018 10:20 AM CDT
Business Goliaths Manage to Kill Seattle's 'Head Tax'
People attending a Seattle City Council meeting hold signs that read "Tax Amazon, Housing for All" and "No Tax on Jobs."   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

What does defeat sound like? This: "We have reached the conclusion that this is not a winnable battle at this time." That was the pronouncement of Seattle Councilwoman Lisa Herbold Tuesday in advance of what ended up being a 7-2 vote to reverse a new tax the council had unanimously approved only a month prior. The so-called "head tax" would have generated just shy of $50 million annually to put toward homelessness and affordable housing by charging businesses that generate more than $20 million in revenue a year about $275 per employee. That would have hit about 3% of businesses in the city, one of which is Amazon, which would have contributed about 25% of the expected total, reports NPR. The company was vocal in its opposition.

And per, the "stunning wealth" of Amazon, Starbucks, and the rest of the opposition drove the reversal. As Councilwoman Lorena Gonzalez explains, "I have been unable to find a way forward that we could out-fund and out-resource the opposition campaign by November" (the opposition was campaigning for a referendum on the tax in the fall). "Money has funded this campaign that put us in a position where we have to repeal this law." The AP characterizes city leaders as having "underestimated the frustration" over not just the tax but the fact that while $68 million was spent on homelessness last year, a January count found the homeless population in the Seattle area up 4%, to 12,000, suggesting to some that the city's current resources weren't being used appropriately. (More Seattle stories.)

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