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Kshama Sawant
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Sawant: Amazon support of state head tax is ‘bottom line political calculus’

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant addressed her stance Friday on a controversial big business tax proposal currently in the state Legislature.

State lawmakers bring Seattle head tax battle to Olympia

The proposal would solely affect King County, and has been met with mixed responses from the business community, as well as local politicians. The tax would be levied against businesses with employees making at least $150,000, and sit between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. It also includes exemptions for small businesses, and would be used to address affordable housing and homeless services.

It would potentially raise upwards of $120 million. And while support has been voiced from many big businesses — including Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft — the prevailing thought is that their support would be conditional on a statewide preemption on any future big business taxes.

“They call it preemption, but what it really is is an anti-democratic ban on taxation and on big business,” Sawant said Friday in a press conference, labeling the idea of a statewide preemption “unconscionable.”

Sawant went on to clarify that while she supports any legislation that raises money to address the region’s affordable housing crisis, she also believes support from companies like Amazon for this measure is more about avoiding future taxes.

“I think this is bottom line political calculus,” she said. “[Big businesses] know there is tremendous momentum behind taxing them this year — this is why we’re seeing a conversation about a bill that will raise a small amount, and then get the real prize for big businesses, which is a ban on taxation.”

Sawant renews push for Seattle head tax in 2020

Meanwhile, other Washington state Democrats have yet to directly address the possibility of preemption, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“Right now, I am very afraid that [Mayor Durkan] is apparently prepared to cooperate with this anti-democratic attack against our city,” Sawant said.

Before this state bill was ever proposed, Sawant outlined broad strokes for her own plan to pursue a city-level levy on large local businesses, akin to a head tax that was passed — and then quickly repealed — in 2018.

She still intends to move forward with that plan, as well as a soon-to-be proposed council resolution opposing preemption.

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