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Will the proposed King County head tax hurt the local economy?

(Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio)

The infamous head tax from 2018 appears to be making a comeback. On Wednesday, Washington lawmakers introduced a bill that would give King County the power levy a tax on big businesses with highly paid employees, specifically with those earning upwards of $150,000 a year.

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.

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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.

“So we’d remove $121 million from the the economy, and you would give it to the city of Seattle or in King County, and they would then take it. If you had it in dollar bills, it would weigh one metric ton. It would take — depending on the heat of the fire — anywhere between 20 minutes or 45 minutes to burn up $121 million,” joked KIRO Radio’s John Curley.

“Because you’re basically taking the money out of the economy where it could be purchased and moved for services and goods, and giving it to King County and Seattle, where they would just piss it away.”

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Certain groups would be exempt, including businesses with under 50 employees, cancer centers, and local governments. It currently has the support of Seattle-based Expedia, but many other companies have not commented as of yet. Seattle’s 2018 per-employee tax of large businesses — expected to raise approximately $47 million per year — was quickly repealed. Councilmember Kshama Sawant recently launched a “Tax Amazon” campaign in an effort to move it forward again.

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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