State lawmakers bring Seattle head tax battle to Olympia

Jan 30, 2020, 8:04 AM
Head tax, Big business tax...
(Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)
(Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)

While Seattle continues to rally support for a new head tax in 2020, Washington state lawmakers have taken things into their own hands, proposing a similar measure of their own.

Seattle head tax 101

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Nicole Macri, a Democrat who represents the Seattle area, and features 11 other co-sponsors. It would impose a tax on large businesses with employees making at least $150,000 a year, in counties with a population over 2 million. That would limit it solely to King County.

Money raised from the tax would go toward homelessness, affordable housing, and behavioral health services, with the potential to add as much as $121 million in revenue.

While a big business tax has always been controversial, things could get even more heated once companies who would be affected begin to weigh in. While neither Microsoft or Amazon have yet to officially comment on this latest proposal, it’s not difficult to read the tea leaves concerning where they might land.

“The interesting thing on this one is that Amazon and Microsoft are probably not of similar minds on this,” said KIRO Nights co-host Mike Lewis. “Brad Smith, one of the bosses at Microsoft, has been an advocate … [and] he is likely to be OK with this.”

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Amazon, traditionally one of the primary opponents of the head tax in Seattle.

“Amazon obviously got involved in the fight, [and] pulled in the unions to stop the head tax in its tracks a year-and-a-half ago,” Lewis noted.

Seattle and King County officials, meanwhile, have rallied together in support of the measure, with Mayor Jenny Durkan and Executive Dow Constantine issuing a joint statement Wednesday.

The 2020 priorities for a new-look Seattle City Council

“We thank legislators in Olympia for recognizing that regional need and for bringing forward a progressive new funding tool for King County,” the statement reads. “We know more input and ideas will help make this bill better, but we cannot miss this moment to act.”

Durkan had previously stated that there’s a “strong likelihood there will be a progressive business tax in 2020.”

It’s unclear how this will affect a similar proposal from Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who has billed her own effort as a bid to tax Amazon.

Listen to KIRO Nights with Aaron Mason and Mike Lewis weekdays from 7-10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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State lawmakers bring Seattle head tax battle to Olympia