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Pierce County commits to business incentives opposite Seattle head tax

Just a week after the Seattle City Council passed a head tax, charging big businesses $275 per employee, cities and agencies throughout Pierce County are banding together to do the opposite.

“Quality of life starts with a job,” said Bruce Kendall, CEO of the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County. “And what you see in front of you today are a group of elected officials and city administrators who understand that principle, but also take action.”

Kendall said that jurisdictions across the county, including the Pierce County government, are sending a message to businesses in Washington and beyond “that if you invest here and create good, well-paying, family-wage jobs, you will be rewarded for that action.”

Seattle head tax 101

Officials from Pierce County and its various cities announced Tuesday that they each plan to create a job tax credit to the tune of $275 — the same amount that Seattle aims to tax its largest businesses (per employee, annually). Businesses will receive the credit if they create a minimum of five family-wage jobs for five years. Each respective city and county official will go back to to their governing bodies to implement a variation of the tax incentive that works in their area.

“This is unprecedented in the State of Washington, but the attitude is not unprecedented at all,” Kendall said. “Pierce County is a leader in economic thought and political leadership in this state.”

“We are more than happy to reward (businesses) for the best thing they do, which is to create family-wage jobs,” he said.

Pierce County business incentive

The idea comes on the heels of other outreach from Pierce County organizations pointing out that the region does not have a head tax. They even made a video about it.

Among county officials on hand for the Tuesday afternoon announcement was Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County executive; Victoria Woodards, City of Tacoma mayor; Mark Martinez, Pierce County Building & Construction Trades Council executive secretary; Bruce Kendall, Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County president & CEO; and Mike Courts, City of Dupont mayor.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards released the following statement on Tuesday:

“Tacoma has a history of incentivizing the creation of family-wage jobs, and businesses that create these types of jobs in Tacoma can already qualify for up to four different credits. These credits – which can total up to $1,500 per year – can be claimed for up to five years for each qualifying job created. Ultimately, as the Puget Sound region as a whole evolves and grows, Tacoma and Pierce County benefit. I will continue to pursue cooperative and collaborative strategies with other cities and counties throughout the area to ensure that the Puget Sound region remains a desirable place to start or grow a business.”

Related: Head tax supporters create ‘boycott list’ to target opposition

Former Tacoma Mayor and current Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Marilyn Strickland voiced her opposition to Seattle’s head tax before and after the vote.

Meanwhile, several Seattle businesses, including Amazon, are preparing an initiative that would repeal the head tax. They would need just under 22,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the law in effect on May 16; it’ll go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

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