Yesterday we wrote about HB 2907, which would allow King County to adopt a tax on certain large employers with employees earning more than $150,000 annually. The legislation remains a work in progress, with key provisions still uncertain.
In our post, we didn’t mention the testimony of suburban mayors at the House Finance Committee meeting Tuesday morning. Their observations are important to understand the regional approach to homelessness and concerns about the new tax. The Seattle Times reports,
Negotiations could result in a partial preemption of cities’ ability to pass their own big-business taxes, and non-Seattle politicians also are now in the mix. Redmond and Kirkland already have head taxes, but those could be grandfathered in. Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and Kent Mayor Dana Ralph told the House Finance Committee they were excluded from the discussions that led to House Bill 2907.
“None of us were at the table,” Ralph said.
“Now we’re left to scramble to determine what effects this will have on our community,” Backus said.
The suburban mayors neither supported nor opposed the bill. But they said they want to make sure a new tax wouldn’t hurt the economies in their cities.
Preemption will be a critical issue in coming days.
In discussions before Macri introduced House Bill 2907, some business leaders asked that a clause prohibiting cities from enacting similar taxes be included and that language was at one time included in a draft bill, according to a business leader who took part in the discussions but wasn’t cleared to speak publicly about them. “Double jeopardy is a concern,” Downtown Seattle Association president Jon Scholes said in an interview.
KUOW reports on the business support expressed yesterday.
In the statement, the eleven employers stop short of supporting the proposed measure. Instead, the statement says any tax should be “imposed at a reasonable level with accountability for results in homelessness and affordable housing.”
Reagan Dunn, vice chairman of the Metropolitan King County Council, states his opposition to the tax in a Seattle Times op-ed. He concludes his commentary:
Just last month, our community came together in a bipartisan fashion to craft the first ever King County Regional Homeless Authority with the agreed-upon understanding that we would work together to improve the existing homelessness response system without raising taxes. The new Regional Homelessness Authority hasn’t even had its first meeting yet, and new taxes are already being sought. Perhaps it makes more sense to let this body do the work it’s meant to do — identify data-driven strategies and systematic efficiencies to help the homeless population get back on its feet — before we rush to pass yet another tax.
If all we’re doing is putting more money behind failed policies, this tax may actually exacerbate the existing systemic issues that have made Seattle a dead-end street for people who experience homelessness.
As the session approaches its halfway mark at the end of this week, negotiations are apt to move swiftly. More later.