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No Tax on Jobs Coalition confident it will have enough signatures for ballot

A man holds a "No Tax on Jobs" sign in Seattle as signature gatherers attempt to get a referendum on the November 2018 ballot. (Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)

Organizers of the effort to repeal Seattle’s head tax are confident that they will get enough signatures to get their referendum onto the November ballot.

RELATED: Seattle’s head tax 101

“We’ve had an incredible outpouring of support across the city of Seattle … and we are very close to the finish line in terms of collecting the required signatures in order to be on the ballot this November,” said John Murray, spokesperson for the No Tax on Jobs Coalition.

The No Tax on Jobs Coalition aims to repeal the head tax passed by Seattle City Council in May 2018. The head tax focuses on the city’s largest employers earning more than $20 million annually. The money raised is slated for homelessness and affordability programs. Many worry, however, that it will send the wrong message to businesses and harm the local economy.

The coalition has had about 2,000 volunteers gathering signatures around Seattle, supplemented by a “small number” of paid gatherers, Murray said. They have until June 14 to submit nearly 18,000 signatures. If they succeed, a referendum will be placed on the November ballot asking if voters want to repeal the Seattle jobs tax. Organizers won’t say how many signatures they have gathered already, but are expecting to have enough. Murray even spoke to the next step of the repeal effort.

“There will be a next phase of this effort focused on continuing to keep the high level of enthusiasm and support across the Seattle electorate, so that when it comes to voting this fall, they vote to repeal the jobs tax that the city council passed,” Murray said.

The effort has been opposed by some in town who want the head tax to succeed, such as the group “Bring Seattle Home: Decline to Sign.”

Murray said that signature gatherers will continue their effort through the weekend and he encourages Seattle voters to find a petition and sign it.

“So when we turn these signatures in next week before the June 14 deadline, there is no doubt in the mind of city council, or those on the other side, that there is a massive movement in the City of Seattle against bad tax policies, and bad policies that push job creators away from our area,” Murray said. “And after we get rid of this jobs tax, we can have a civil and productive debate that is regional in nature about how to solve issues like homelessness, housing affordability, and others.”

About more than a Seattle jobs tax

Murray said that many in Seattle feel that city council members have stopped listening to them, and instead give credit to loud, extreme voices. He said the Seattle jobs tax repeal has become about more than just getting rid of a policy they disagree with. It has become about correcting the course of city leadership.

“I think the jobs tax was the final straw,” Murray said. “You have seen tax after tax increase pushed by the city council … and you have a real problem on the streets of Seattle with public safety and sanitation. Also, a feeling among residents that this has to be solved because it is not right to have people living in these kinds of conditions.”

“Within that context you have a city council that has simply said ‘give us more money and we’ll take care of it,'” he said. “The problem is they have had a huge increase in homelessness spending over the past few years with little to no evidence of improvement. The people of the city are saying, ‘On the one hand you are telling us to give you more money. On the other, you clearly do not have an effective plan.’ And in the meantime, things are getting worse.”

Signature gathering conflicts

The repeal effort has been as controversial as the head tax was when it was discussed by the Seattle City Council.

Reports of signature gathers being harassed have persisted throughout the campaign. Head tax supporters have lined themselves alongside petitioners to discourage signers. The website for Bring Seattle Home — the opposition to the No Tax on Jobs Coalition — has a section to report where repeal petitioners are so their supporters can counter their efforts. Opposition claims that the repeal effort is not being honest with signers.

Police were called to the Admiral Met Market in West Seattle in late May after head tax supporters began arguing with people signing the Seattle jobs tax petition, KIRO 7 reports. A similar incident happened in front of Uwajimaya.

Murray says that he has heard about harassment issues, but says that most people involved around the petition events — on both sides — are respectful.

“We have heard anecdotal evidence from our volunteers across the city of pockets of harassment, people who have come up to their tables and flipped them over, people who come and speak loudly around the signature gathering space, shouting down people coming to sign them,” he said. “And there are very limited incidences of confrontations … overall, I would say the majority of Seattleites have behaved in a respectful manner, whether they support the head tax or not.”


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