Seattle’s head tax inspires copycats and don’t-do-thats: More evidence that taxes affect behavior?

Seattle’s controversial new head tax continues to spark discussion. Yesterday we noted that Pierce County and Tacoma we’re considering a new tax incentive to sharpen the contrast between the South Sound and the Emerald City. The News Tribune has more on the plan.

The leaders of nine cities and the county government stood in the hot, dry air of a Puyallup data center to send a largely symbolic message to Seattle and beyond.

Consider Pierce County…

That “largely symbolic message” won’t be without consequences. Messages, like costs, matter, because location and expansion decisions are largely about the future, about expectations of how employers will be treated.
To counter [Seattle’s $275 head ta, Pierce County governments are pledging a one-time benefit to companies who relocate here, valued at $275 per employee earning $65,000 or more as long, as those companies each provide at least five of those jobs.
 
The incentive would take different forms in different cities. Permit discounts or business-and-occupation tax credits, for instance…

This shouldn’t be considered a hostile move on Seattle’s interests, said Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier.

“We don’t want to steal from Seattle,” Dammeier said. “But if they are thinking about leaving the state of Washington, we want them to come to Pierce County.”

Dammeier and others said they worry the perception of the region would change because of Seattle’s vote, and that Pierce County, because of its proximity, will be discounted out of hand.

Dammeier and the other Pierce County officials may also want to try some Silicon Valley recruiting. Where the South Sound wants to draw a contrast, apparently Northern California sees in Seattle a model to emulate. Geek Wire reports,

Now, the concept of taxing big corporations — in an effort to build affordable housing and offer homeless services — is catching on Silicon Valley.

Bloomberg’s Eric Newcomer reports that San Francisco, Mountain View, Cupertino and East Palo Alto are now considering similar taxes to the legislation passed in Seattle, potentially changing the dynamic between big tech companies and the communities in which they operate…

Mountain View is considering a head tax of $250 to $300 per employee, with Bloomberg reporting that the city council is considering a vote for next month. It would raise about $10 million. Cupertino — home to Apple’s headquarters — also is considering a head tax to fund housing and transportation, as is East Palo Alto, which just voted to send the measure to voters this November.

The news comes as some tech giants expand their operations in new enclaves outside of Seattle and Silicon Valley.

We wonder why.