Seattle council clashes over how to address state head tax proposal

Feb 19, 2020, 12:36 PM
Seattle City Council, tax, coronavirus illegal immigrants, police...
Seattle City Council. (Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

Seattle City Councilmembers clashed Tuesday over how to address a state proposal that would levy a modest tax on big businesses in King County.

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

The measure in Olympia would tax King County businesses with employees who make over $150,000. Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks have all come out in support of the proposal, although some have voiced concerns that their support is a conditional on a ban on all future big business taxes in Washington.

Seattle City Council detailed those concerns in a recent letter to state lawmakers, laying out a request to increase the total revenue in the proposal “to more closely align with the substantial needs across our region.” The letter also urged the Legislature not to support any amendments that preempt the City of Seattle from levying any big business taxes of its own.

That had Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant drafting a resolution of her own, also condemning any potential preemption in the state proposal. That resolution was voted down by a 5-2 margin Tuesday.

“(Sawant’s) resolution did not strengthen the ongoing negotiations around HB 2907 in Olympia, being led by Representative Nicole Macri, beyond the position the entire Council took, unanimously,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold said in a Wednesday news release.

Fellow councilmembers echoed that sentiment, stating that the previously-sent letter was an adequate message to the state Legislature.

“While I adamantly believe in the good intentions behind this resolution, I also believe the framework of our engagement based in that letter on February 10 has been the better approach to working out this policy,” said Councilmember Andrew Lewis.

State lawmakers bring Seattle head tax battle to Olympia

Addressing other councilmembers who didn’t elaborate on their “no” votes, Sawant asked that they explain themselves.

“I think you owe the public an explanation of why you’re voting ‘no’ on the resolution,” she stated. “I don’t think anybody that votes ‘no’ can claim that they are doing everything in their power to prevent what will be — if the [big business tax] ban passes — an historic betrayal of Seattle and the state’s working people.”

That attempt proved fruitless, as a full vote was called for instead. District 2’s Tammy Morales was the only other councilmember to vote with Sawant in favor of the ultimately-failed resolution.

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Seattle council clashes over how to address state head tax proposal