A strong op-ed in in the Seattle Times makes the case against a proposed tax on employment in Seattle. Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, Louise Chernin, president and CEO of The Greater Seattle Business Association, the largest LGBT chamber of commerce in North America, and Marilyn Strickland, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, write,
We are the leaders of member associations in Seattle who represent businesses ranging from your favorite neighborhood restaurant to the largest employers in the city. The business community of Seattle is united as we urge the City Council to reject a call from their “Progressive Revenue Task Force” for $150 million a year in new taxes for housing and homeless services. If the council’s past actions are any indication, this added money will also fail to resolve our city’s homeless crisis.
The business community respectfully declined to participate in the task force because it was simply a justification by the City Council to establish a new tax on jobs. The outcome was predetermined, the process rushed, and its goal was simply to raise more money instead of truly solving the homelessness facing our region.
We wrote about this tax previously — in November when it was tabled for the “task force study” cited above, noting its reemergence in our Friday Roundup March 2, and earlier this week as we noted the Seattle Chamber’s argument against the tax.
The three business leaders make a fact-based argument against the new tax, pointing to Seattle’s spectacular revenue and spending growth.
The city of Seattle’s treasury has benefited from the generosity of Seattle taxpayers and the prosperity created by job growth and a booming economy. In 2012, the city’s general fund and voter approved spending was $1.28 billion and grew to $1.78 billion by 2016, a 39 percent increase. Over the same period, Seattle’s population grew only by 11 percent, and the cumulative inflation in Seattle was just 6.8 percent.
They then ask what there is to show for the spending boost, saying,
The top issue facing the city and our region is homelessness. Recommendations from national experts to effectively reduce homelessness have been ignored by the council…
The city’s approach to homelessness is not working.
Moreover, as we wrote earlier, even before the economy cools, the city is facing a shortfall. From the op-ed:
…we should all be shocked to learn that despite record revenues and raising taxes 12 times since 2014, the city could face a near-term budget shortfall measured in the tens of millions of dollars. It is astounding that our new mayor must ask for these budget cuts because the City Council adopted a budget beyond its means at a time when historically high sales, utility, property and business taxes are rolling into the city.
The Seattle Chamber recently advised members that more than 300 businesses had signed onto a letter urging Seattle City Council members to reject the head tax. The letter concludes:
We are hopeful that the regional One Table process convened by Mayors Durkan and Backus and County Executive Constantine will result in a balanced approach to include reforms, efficiencies, and priority programs with measurable outcomes that reduce the unsheltered homeless population in Seattle and King County. In anticipation of One Table’s work, we urge the City Council to join with the region to embrace effective and sustainable strategies to eliminate homelessness. If, through that process, it is demonstrated that funds are needed and can be effectively spent, the business community is committed to supporting a regional effort to determine sufficient, appropriate revenue sources that are equitable, sustainable, and entirely focused on solving homelessness.
Reforms. Efficiencies. Priorities. Measurable outcomes. Sounds like a sensible set of first steps to us.