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Chamber CEO: Head tax will push Seattle businesses out

The head tax proposed by a task force may push more businesses out of the city, Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Marilyn Strickland warns. (City of Seattle image)

The cost of doing business in Seattle may soon become too high.

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That’s according to Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Marilyn Strickland. She’s opposed to the head tax proposed by the Progressive Revenue Taskforce on Housing and Homelessness because there’s no specific plan on how the money will be used.

The chamber represents more than 2,000 businesses in four counties.

Strickland says all businesses would be taxed — contradicting what Councilmember Kshama Sawant previously said.

“My understanding from the proposal received by the Progressive Revenue Taskforce on Housing and Homelessness is that they want to tax all businesses. They talked about having a tax on every single business so that people would put quote ‘skin in the game.'”

The proposed tax would, according to the task force, raise $150 million annually.

Strickland, the former Mayor of Tacoma, says Seattle should not have to solve the homeless and affordability crisis alone. It’s a region issue, she says.

Strickland calls the head tax a job tax. For every person who is employed, the task force wants a formula where a tax is imposed based on the number of employees and gross revenue.

More than 300 of Seattle’s small businesses signed a letter urging the council to at least include them in the process.

“We have supported schools, we’ve supported parks, we’ve supported roads, we’ve supported Sound Transit 3. But, in this case, there seems to be a default position of we have a situation with homelessness, let’s tax businesses to pay for it.

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“The challenge here is there is no plan. There’s nothing talking about the type of housing, where they would site it, if the zoning even exists, and what it would cost per unit to build the housing.”

Strickland says the business owners she represents talk about the fact that every time they turn around, it feels like a new tax or fee is being levied on businesses in Seattle.

“At some point, there will be a reaction to that. People are saying the cost of doing business is too high and prohibitive.”

She says before the city imposes another tax, there should be a discussion about a plan as well as the money already being spent to address homelessness.

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