MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Heated arguments for, against Seattle head tax

May 9, 2018, 10:49 AM | Updated: 11:12 am

Supporters of a head tax on large companies in Seattle at a city council hearing May 9, 2018. (KIRO 7) A rally of union workers against Seattle's proposed head tax. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) A rally of union workers against Seattle's proposed head tax. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) Chris McCLain with UA Local 82 leads a rally of union workers against Seattle's proposed head tax. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) Signs ready ahead of the second Seattle City Council meeting on Wednesday. (KIRO Radio/Mike Lewis) Signs ready ahead of the second Seattle City Council meeting on Wednesday. (KIRO Radio/Mike Lewis) Construction workers pack the Seattle City Council meeting on Wednesday. (KIRO Radio/Mike Lewis) (Seattle Channel screengrab) Jimmy Haun, center, holds a sign that reads "Don't vote our jobs away," Wednesday, May 9, 2018, as he attends a Seattle City Council committee meeting at City Hall in Seattle where public comment was heard on a controversial proposal to tax large businesses such as Amazon.com to fund efforts to combat homelessness. Haun is the political director of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) An opponent of a controversial proposal to tax large businesses such as Amazon.com holds a sign that reads "Will the last business leaving Seattle - turn out the lights," Wednesday, May 9, 2018, as she attends a Seattle City Council committee meeting at City Hall in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Opponents and supporters of a controversial proposal to tax large businesses such as Amazon.com to fund efforts to combat homelessness hold signs Wednesday, May 9, 2018, as they attend a Seattle City Council committee meeting at City Hall in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Opponents of a controversial proposal to tax large businesses such as Amazon.com to fund efforts to combat homelessness sign up to speak, Wednesday, May 9, 2018, to attend a Seattle City Council committee meeting at City Hall in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Seattle City Council members Kshama Sawant, center, Mike O'Brien, left, and Teresa Mosqueda, right, listen to public comments on a controversial proposal to tax large businesses such as Amazon.com to fund efforts to combat homelessness, Wednesday, May 9, 2018, during a Seattle City Council committee meeting at City Hall in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) A supporter of a controversial proposal to tax large businesses such as Amazon.com to fund efforts to combat homelessness holds a sign that reads "Tax Amazon" while waiting in line Wednesday, May 9, 2018, to attend a Seattle City Council committee meeting at City Hall in Seattle that was held in part to hear public comment on the proposal. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Hundreds gathered in support of the Seattle head tax Wednesday morning. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Hundreds gathered in support of the Seattle head tax Wednesday morning. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Hundreds gathered in support of the Seattle head tax Wednesday morning. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Hundreds gathered in support of the Seattle head tax Wednesday morning. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Hundreds gathered in support of the Seattle head tax Wednesday morning. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Workers opposed to Seattle's proposed head tax showed up en masse Wednesday morning. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) Councilmember Mike O'Brien. (Matt Pitman/KIRO Radio) A group of workers opposed to the head tax outside council chambers on Wednesday. (Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio) A group of head tax supporters await a committee meeting on the head tax at Seattle City Hall Wednesday. (Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio) (Mike Lewis/KIRO Radio)

The controversial head tax drew hundreds of people to the Seattle Council Chambers Wednesday ahead of a potential vote in the coming days.

RELATED: 130 Seattle executives sign letter opposing head tax

Though some encouraged both sides to come together to find a solution that works for everybody, many stuck strongly to their beliefs.

Among the crowd was a woman who identified herself as a veteran and former homeless person. She said the city needs to adjust how it spends the money it already has.

“They talk about more housing. What they need to talk about is how to address homelessness and drug use. And that means we should have more rehab and more mental health workers,” she told KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott.

As a veteran, she was able to get into affordable housing relatively quickly. However, she would be thrown out because of a lack of treatment options for addiction and mental health issues.

Crowds gather for Seattle Council hearing

Members with Speak Out Seattle were also present. One member said the council needs to take a step back.

“It does not make sense to be taxing and asking for more money when you can’t even explain how you’ve already spent almost a billion dollars,” she said.

Strong show of support

While those opposed to the head tax made their feelings for the proposal and its supporters known, many spoke in favor of the tax.

Seattle Socialist Alternative organizer and husband of Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Calvin Priest, said workers need to stand up against “[Jeff] Bezos’ bullying.”

He said Amazon’s decision to halt construction in the city is wrong.

“They’ve stepped in to threaten the city that they’re going to take away thousands of jobs if we pass this tax, which is a tiny fraction of the tax cut they just got from Donald Trump. They can easily afford this tax.”

Anita Freeman, who also supports the tax, said homeless people are dying in record numbers.

“Forty-two people dead in four months. We cannot accept this as business as usual.”

The public hearing on the head tax Wednesday morning was one of the last scheduled prior to a potential vote next week. The Seattle City Council is weighing the possibility of taxing the city’s biggest businesses 26 cents per hour, per employee.

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Heated arguments for, against Seattle head tax