Downtown Seattle Association responds to new tax proposal
Seattle’s business community is responding to the latest tax proposal from two city council members who say it would pay for homeless shelters and housing.
The top 10 percent of the highest-grossing businesses in the city would be taxed, according to council members Mike O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley.
Jon Scholes, president of the Downtown Seattle Association, says it’s the wrong approach. The city has money “practically falling out of the sky” thanks to the economic boom, Scholes told Seattle’s Morning News.
“They’ve got more than they ever have before,” he said of city government. “We don’t think it’s about money; it’s about setting priorities.”
The tax would raise up to $24 million for 24-hour shelters, encampments, and tiny homes. It would also fund outreach, safe zones for people living in their vehicles, and rental assistance.
Companies, Scholes added, are already paying their due. He says the solution lies within a report by a group of experts that suggests the city has — or had — all the funding it needed to solve its homeless crisis. Last year, Megan Kurteff Schatz with Focus Strategies said that if Seattle implemented their recommendations, every unsheltered person that was in the city could be sheltered by the end of 2017. That hasn’t happened.
Though there has been some success, this year’s homeless count found more than 11,500 people are living in either temporary shelter or outside. There were, at the time of the count, 5,485 people living unsheltered in the county, with about 70 percent of those in city limits.
Like the city’s income tax that is now being debated in court, Scholes says the business tax would just make Seattle more expensive.
“If money was the only solution to this problem, we would have solved this problem years ago,” he said.
The city council will be discussing the tax this week.
Listen to the entire interview here.