Seattle Mayor Durkan: Sawant big business tax ‘not a plan I can support’

Feb 13, 2020, 5:59 AM | Updated: 10:23 am

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan stated Wednesday that she does not support Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s latest proposal for a big business tax.

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

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

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

Mayor Durkan, while noting that she does support the idea of a big business tax, said that she doesn’t see Sawant’s plan as a viable solution.

“I believe that big businesses can and should pay more to address our challenges, but this proposal that is six times bigger than the failed Council head tax proposal is not a plan that I can support,” she said Wednesday, predicting a “failed, divisive fight” should Sawant’s proposal move forward.

Durkan also claimed Sawant has “failed to provide basic information about her plan,” questioning revenue projections related to the $300 million-a-year estimate for her tax proposal.

The Seattle Mayor instead continued to voice her support for HB-2907, a separate big business tax currently moving through the state Legislature, that would raise roughly $120 million a year on a 0.1 to 0.2 percent tax on King County businesses with employees who make over $150,000.

“I want Seattle and our region to have resources to address this crisis, and I will continue to support a progressive solution to meet Seattle and our region’s vision for affordable housing and homelessness,” she described.

Similar to Sawant’s proposal, funds raised by HB-2907 would be put toward affordable housing measures.

State lawmakers bring Seattle head tax battle to Olympia

HB-2907 has at least the tacit support of companies of Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and more. However, some theorize that the support of those companies will eventually be conditional on a complete ban on all future big business taxes in Washington state.

Sawant has been vocal in her opposition to any preemption on future taxes.

“I think this is bottom line political calculus,” Sawant posited in a press conference last Friday. “[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.”

Durkan has yet to directly address whether or not she supports preemption as a possible condition for the state-level tax proposal.

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Seattle Mayor Durkan: Sawant big business tax ‘not a plan I can support’