Councilmember Kshama Sawant called out Steve Ballmer’s recent arguments that an income tax would harm the city’s business climate during a Seattle City Council meeting on Wednesday.
“Of course, no surprise, we are hearing that some people are not happy about taxing the rich,” Sawant said. “And who are they? It’s the rich people … So it’s not a shocker that multi-billionaire Steve Ballmer is going around to the media saying this is going to be really bad for the business climate.”
“I just wanted to publicly respond to him as a Ph.D. economist. There is absolutely no evidence in statistical studies of taxes on the wealthy of any kind having any negative kind of consequences,” she said. “This is the same kind of myth we heard with the fight for $15 [minimum wage]. According to them, there was going to be an apocalypse if we won $15. But nothing has happened to Seattle; nothing bad has happened.”
“So we should boldly reject such mythology about taxing the rich,” Sawant added.
The Wednesday forum to “Tax the Rich” began with the council giving an overview of the progressive income tax it hopes to pass in July. The city’s initial estimate is that the income tax could raise $125 million during 2019. A single person earning $275,000 annually would pay .18 percent or $500. That goes up to $5,000 for someone earning $500,000. Joint filers have a slighting higher rate, starting at $500,001.
Ballmer, a former Microsoft CEO, has publicly said that a Seattle income tax could harm the city’s current economic prosperity by creating an “unfavorable business climate.” The region’s tech boom draws thousands of new, highly-paid employees to the area from other tech cities.
But as Ballmer recently told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross:
All of a sudden somebody who thinks they are getting paid more than somebody who makes the equivalent dollars in California – because California has a 14-percent income tax – sure, it would drive up wages here and cause people to think about moving jobs elsewhere. That will certainly happen … the analysis is right. There will be fewer jobs here with an income tax than there would without an income tax.
Few people spoke against the income tax during the public comment period Wednesday night. The majority of speakers favored the idea. Sawant wasn’t the only person to bring up Ballmer at the meeting.
“Unlike Steve Ballmer, I’m looking forward to the day when I can pay my fair share to keep Seattle wonderful,” said Ned Friend, an engineer at a local tech firm. “I met with Steve Ballmer when he was at Microsoft, and if I met with him again, I would tell him that what really makes an ‘unfavorable business climate’ is tents lining our log-jammed highways, threats to our immigrant employees, and underfunded schools for our children.”