Sawant details expansive plan to tax Amazon, other Seattle big businesses

Feb 12, 2020, 10:32 AM | Updated: Feb 13, 2020, 7:04 am

Councilmember Kshama Sawant spoke Wednesday to unveil her proposal to tax Seattle’s biggest businesses.

State lawmakers bring Seattle head tax battle to Olympia

Sawant’s proposed legislation would levy a payroll tax on the top 3 percent of Seattle businesses, raising $300 million a year to fund affordable housing programs and climate change policies.

That would account for a 1.7 percent tax on just over 800 companies in Seattle, excluding nonprofits, small businesses, grocery stores, and all government and educational employers.

“Big business needs to pay its fair share,” Sawant stated, emphasizing that this won’t be another head tax, instead honing in on corporate payroll. “This is the epitome of what a progressive tax means.”

Seventy-five percent of the money raised by the tax would be allocated to housing and social services. That would include the construction of nearly 8,000 new affordable homes in the first 10 years of its implementation, an estimate Sawant billed as “conservative.”

The remaining 25 percent will be put toward converting 47,000 Seattle homes away from natural gas to all-electric power in the same 10-year period.

Addressing concerns that companies like Amazon would be motivated to leave Seattle in the wake of this tax, Sawant pointed to a history of what she views as big business holding the local economy hostage.

The 2020 priorities for a new-look Seattle City Council

“Washington state’s history is a sorry litany of big businesses making threats that if you don’t give them this or that, they will take away jobs,” she said.

She also voiced support for HB-2907, a separate big business tax proposal moving through the state Legislature. That said, she couched that by noting she remains suspicious that Amazon, Microsoft, and other companies are only supporting the measure on the condition that it includes a ban on all future big business taxes.

“We are absolutely supportive of any other proposal brought forward either at the city or county level,” Sawant said. “We stand in solidarity with efforts like 2907 to raise taxes on big businesses. However, we are absolutely opposed to preemption.”

The legislation has yet to be officially drafted, but Sawant plans to present it to Seattle’s City Council by the end of February.

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Sawant details expansive plan to tax Amazon, other Seattle big businesses