The Seattle City Council will be considering new taxes to combat the city’s homelessness crisis (we use the term advisedly; few dispute the magnitude of the problem). But there is no consensus about what taxes to raise.
Mayor Tim Burgess opposes a controversial business tax. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports,
Many Seattle companies could soon be required to pay a $100 per-employee tax – unless Mayor Tim Burgess gets his way…
He’s made defeating the proposed revival of the per-employee tax the focus of his remaining weeks as mayor. To do that, he’s asking the Seattle City Council to instead pass a tax on short-term rentals like Airbnb.
Both proposal are on the Tax Foundation’s list of 2017 Seattle tax proposals.
The PSBJ writes,
It’s still unclear how much support either proposal has in council chambers. Several iterations of Burgess’ short-term rental tax have failed and the head tax still faces opposition. If the per-employee tax passes, it’s still likely to face opposition from the mayor’s office. Neither [mayoral candidates] Durkan nor Moon support the tax.
According to the Seattle Times, Burgess worries about the burden the tax would impose on businesses in the city.
Burgess said the tax would be ill-advised because some businesses can’t afford it and businesses already are doing their fair share.
“Seattle already has the highest business taxes in the state,” the mayor said in an interview Tuesday, as council members debated the proposal and whether to continue evicting people from unauthorized homeless encampments.
Council members supporting the per-employee tax don’t share the concern.
The tax proposed by Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley and supported by at least two others on the nine-member council would be about $100 per year per employee for companies that gross more than $5 million a year.
O’Brien says the employee-hours tax would affect only the largest 10 percent of businesses in the city and would raise up to $24 million a year, starting in 2019…
The council members say Seattle’s larger businesses can afford to help more in the battle against homelessness…
Burgess dismissed their argument as “stick it to them” talk, saying, “I don’t engage in anti-business rhetoric. I love jobs.”
The story provides a good overview of the internal policy dispute. Crosscut has more in a story headlined, “As homelessness grows, so does tension at City Hall.”
As the problem worsens, the search for new revenue has cut to the heart of what separates the council’s nine members, all of whom declare themselves progressive…
How each elected official stands on the proposed [per-employee] tax is a convenient marker of political affiliation on the technically nonpartisan council, with those members considered anchors of the left — Lisa Herbold, Mike O’Brien, Kshama Sawant and Kirsten Harris-Talley — fiercely arguing for its merits, while Sally Bagshaw continues to denounce it, partly on the belief that business was not welcomed to the table. Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Debora Juarez oppose the tax and at an earlier council meeting, Bruce Harrell suggested he was leaning against the new tax.
Apparently, the “refresh” button has yet to be pushed with respect to city tax policy.