Seattle City Council keeps head tax alive, forming task force and promising a vote by March 2018

The controversial Seattle head tax remains alive. As we wrote las week, the proposal died in committee, with members pledging to revive it after consultation with business leaders and others. 

Acting swiftly, the Seattle City Council adopted a resolution setting the head tax revival in place. Here are some of the relevant provisions, following the long litany of whereases.

By December 11, 2017, the Seattle City Council, with input by the Mayor of Seattle, shall identify individuals to serve as members on an ad hoc taskforce. The taskforce shall develop recommendations to the Council that will (a) explore potential new progressive revenue sources, including an Employee Hours Tax (EHT) and (b) identify investments to be paid for using those progressive revenue sources that would assist people who are homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless in obtaining and retaining stable housing.  The taskforce should include members such as subject matter experts on housing, health care, and homelessness; service providers; civic leaders; labor representatives; individuals who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness; business organizations; economic equity experts; community organizations; community coalitions; community leaders; and small and large business owners…

It is the Seattle City Council’s intent to take final legislative action imposing an EHT and/or other progressive taxes by March 26, 2018 or early enough to ensure that such taxes can be imposed as of January 1, 2019.

There is, of course, much more in the resolution, but the above captures the essence. 

KUOW reports,

Councilmember Lorena González is one of the sponsors and said the city will form a task force on the issue by December 11…

 González: “This will put us on a clearer path to revenue sources to be able to truly get serious about the civil emergency that faces us, as it relates to our homeless neighbors.”

One of the city’s alternative weeklies, the Stranger, reports,  

In making their case over recent weeks, head tax-supporters cited the nature of a new tax: Unlike one-time budget fights, taxing big business would provide a stable source of new money each year for housing and homelessness. (Stable until the next recession, at least.) Supporters also made a link between increased wealth in the city and worsening homelessness and housing affordability. The resolution directs the task force to identify revenue sources that will not “regressively burden low- and middle-income people (such as a sales tax), but instead require those benefiting from Seattle’s economic growth to contribute to addressing Seattle’s affordable housing and homelessness crises.” The resolution directs the task force to prioritize people who’ve been homeless the longest or who have the greatest barriers to housing when deciding how the new money should be spent.

Business groups remain concerned.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the tax, issued a statement today saying the city should “move beyond tactics like the council’s recent attempt to pass a jobs tax.” Chamber CEO Maud Daudon said the city and county should focus on data and “measurable outcomes” in determining which homelessness programs to fund.

So far, the city council appears committed to jobs taxes and progressive income taxes. So much for the refresh button.