Head tax opponents raised $440,000; supporters only $197,000

Jul 16, 2018, 5:42 PM
head tax...
People crowd into Seattle City Hall for a special council meeting on the potential repeal of the head tax. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)
(Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)

The recent passing and subsequent rescinding of the head tax occurred within about a month, which is pretty efficient considering the Seattle process, even if was only a 360 degree move. But new campaign-finance reports illustrate the aggressive fundraising behind the opposition.

Opponents spent upwards of $2 for every $1 that head tax proponents spent, garnering more than $440,000 in a campaign that merely lasted a month, reports The Seattle Times.

The No Tax on Jobs campaign had the support of major local companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and Dick’s, and seemed to tap into a segment of the public frustrated with perceived misplaced city council spending, as polling indicated. More than 130 executives also signed an open letter to the city council resisting it.

RELATED: Seattle City Council repeals head tax one month after passage

While the effort was partially volunteer-run, most of those funds went to pay signature collectors, who collected 46,000 names. Only 17,000 petition signatures were needed for a referendum. In response, real estate company Zillow said it would likely place new jobs at its offices outside of Seattle, and Amazon halted construction on its expanding headquarters in South Lake Union.

The tax would have applied to businesses earning more than $20 million per year, roughly $275 per employee per year, raising $47 million annually to address the homelessness and affordability crises in the city.

RELATED: Seattle head tax 101: What to know about the tax

Approximately 75 percent of the funds would have funded the construction of 1,780 affordable housing units, with 20 percent for emergency shelter and other services such as building tiny homes, criminal justice diversion programs, services for people living in cars, and adding 362 shelter beds.

Head tax proponents spent $197,000

With the backing of service-employee unions, proponents of the measure spent $197,000, much of which went to polling and advocacy organization. It received the financial backing of SEIU 775 Quality Care Committee and the Services Employees International Union, among others.

Council members said that the opposition to the head tax seemed to have unlimited resources, and believed it would not survive a referendum in November. The council unanimously approved the tax on May 14, and rescinded it on June 12. Council members Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant did not support the repeal bill.

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Head tax opponents raised $440,000; supporters only $197,000