Seattle council passes landmark big business tax proposal
With a veto-proof 7-2 majority, Seattle City Council approved a bill Monday taxing the city’s biggest businesses.
The proposal, dubbed “JumpStart Seattle” and sponsored by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, was first unveiled in mid-June. It will raise over $200 million a year by levying a tax on corporations with payrolls over $7 million. Qualifying businesses will be taxed 0.7% for every employee making over $150,000, and 1.4% for employees making over $500,000.
“We’re in the midst of a public health crisis, and JumpStart is part of the remedy,” Mosqueda said Monday. “… This is a huge win. We, together, are making history.”
The proposal borrows from the city’s emergency and general funds in the near term, and then pays that back when the tax begins to collect money in 2022. In the short term, it would be directed spending toward a handful of COVID-19 relief measures, including rental and business cash assistance programs, and housing and food security.
The council’s budget committee advanced the measure last week with the support of Councilmembers Kshama Sawant, Tammy Morales, Lorena Gonzalez, Dan Strauss, and Andrew Lewis. Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez were the lone votes against the tax both in committee and in the full council session Monday.
Sawant and Morales proposed their own big business tax earlier in 2020, which would have raised upwards of $500 million a year to put toward COVID-19 relief, affordable housing, and Green New Deal measures. They ultimately both threw their support behind Mosqueda’s tax, but voiced opposition to two amendments added to the legislation Monday: a 20-year sunset clause, and an exemption for nonprofit health care providers.