Seattle Times editorial calls for an initiative to kill head tax; businesses slam council vote.

The fallout from Monday’s Seattle City Council vote to impose a $275 head tax on large employers continues. 

One plan: Kill the tax by initiative. That’s what the Seattle Times urges in a tough editorial. The threshold to qualify the measure is surprisingly low.

Citizens of Seattle should respond with an initiative to the people, rejecting this harmful tax on jobs before it takes effect in 2019. Only 21,770 signatures — 10 percent of the turnout in last year’s mayoral race — are needed to get it on the ballot.

The editorial adds that the measure should incorporate a response to the city’s homeless crisis, beginning with accountability. 

Such an initiative should also address the underlying need to better help the homeless population by calling for an independent review of Seattle’s homeless spending to increase efficiency and help more people.

We urge you to read the whole thing. Here’s the bottom line.

If the tax remains and Seattle doesn’t end its ideological crusade against employers, many thousands of jobs will go elsewhere or go away…

Those who understand how much harm the City Council is causing and want to ensure a better future for everyone in Seattle should take action. Seattle’s charter gives the people power, via initiative, to overturn harmful decisions by their elected representatives, and now is the time to use it.

Saul Spady looks at the council’s $275 per employee head tax and asks, “How is that a compromise?” KING-TV reports the consequences for his family’s iconic business.

“That’s what’s really frustrating, this isn’t about Amazon at all,” said Saul Spady, whose grandfather founded Dick’s back in 1954. “This is a tax on high-volume, low-margin businesses, like restaurants, and that’s where it’s going to put the most pain. And it’s making restaurants like Dick’s Drive-ins think really strongly about do we make our workforce more efficient, do we give less money to charity, or maybe we just don’t be a business in Seattle.”

Some see compromise, but Spady cites Denver’s head tax equivalent, the Occupational Privilege Tax, saying, “If the nearest, largest head tax in the country is $50 and [Seattle’s is] six times the nearest head tax, how is that a compromise?”

The tax will affect Dick’s location decisions.

Spady says Dick’s, which is building a new location in Kent, is unlikely to open another location in Seattle in his lifetime.

“That’s because the city of Seattle is making a very clear message is this is not where business is done,” Spady said.

Starbucks also criticizes the council’s action. Geek Wire carries this statement from Starbucks executive John Kelly.

Here’s Kelly’s full statement:

This City continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside. If they cannot provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five-year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction. This City pays more attention to the desires of the owners of illegally parked RVs than families seeking emergency shelter.

Also from Geek Wire.

Criticism from Starbucks comes on the heels of a statement Amazon issued saying it is “very apprehensive” about its future in Seattle because of the city’s “hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses.”

KING-TV reports the reaction of the Downtown Seattle Association.

The Downtown Seattle Association said in a statement it appreciated Durkan’s efforts to modify the original head tax proposal. However, it still does not support the compromise.

“A tax on jobs at any level is bad economic policy and will negatively impact Seattle’s economy and city tax revenues,” Downtown Seattle Association spokesperson James Sido wrote in a statement.

Bellevue’s mayor, while continuing to promote the city’s “open for business” theme, worries about the regional impact. Again, from Geek Wire

Speculation that Seattle’s new head tax could be a boon for neighboring cities has been swirling since before the City Council approved the controversial legislation Monday afternoon..

John Chelminiak, mayor of Bellevue, Wash., said the issue is a little more nuanced than that in an interview with GeekWire Tuesday. He stressed one of his city’s key pillars, “Bellevue is open for business” but expressed concern over the message the tax sends about the broader Seattle metropolitan region.

“That is the key issue,” he said. “What message is it sending? People recognize Seattle as the hub of this area. If you’re out selling yourself somewhere, you’re going to say that you’re in the Seattle area because people recognize the name Seattle.”

We’ve called Seattle “the un-Vegas” because what happens there rarely stays there. Seattle policies have regional and statewide economic impacts. The Seattle Times outlines the timeline of next steps in implementation of the tax, closing with this:

Unless a referendum on the tax is put on an earlier ballot, voters will next get to weigh in on this in 2019, when the City Council’s seven district seats will be up for election.

This isn’t over.