Seattle passes a smaller version of the 'Amazon tax'

Seattle passes a smaller version of the 'Amazon tax'

After intense lobbying by local businesses and a bold threat by Amazon to curtail development in its hometown, the Seattle City Council on Monday approved a smaller and more limited tax on big companies than originally envisioned.

Durkan, many businesses such as Amazon and construction-worker unions opposed it, as did Council President Bruce Harrell, Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Debora Juarez and Rob Johnson and some voters critical of how City Hall has been spending money.

On Monday the council unanimously backed a compromise tax plan that will charge large businesses about $275 per full-time worker each year.

The plan approved by the council represents a compromise from the original version which would have taxed companies $500 per employee and raised $75 million a year.

"We have community members who are dying", Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda told The Seattle Times before the vote. The so-called "head tax" would raise roughly $48 million a year to build new affordable housing units and provide emergency homeless services.

The Downtown Seattle Association said in a statement it appreciated Durkan's efforts to modify the original head tax proposal.

Sponsors of the tax said Seattle's biggest-earning businesses should bear some burden for easing a shortage in low-priced housing that they helped create by driving up real estate prices to the point where the working poor and many middle-class families can no longer afford to live in the city.

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Bezos also halted two construction projects in Seattle pending the outcome of the head-tax debate, which Sawant called extortion. "We are highly uncertain whether the city council's anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better". The mayor instead proposed a tax of $250 per employee. The tax would end after five years unless renewed by the city. The 17-story building, which will have 1 million square feet of office space, is meant to house between 7,000 and 8,000 new employees.

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce criticized the tax, calling it an unfair burden on business owners who have already seen the city increase the minimum wage and pass mandated sick and family leave ordinances. King County, which includes Seattle, recorded a record 169 homeless deaths a year ago. A new report concluded that it would require about $400 million a year, conservatively, to solve the homelessness crisis in King County.

Amazon says it has contributed a cumulative total of $40 million to Seattle's affordable housing fund through fees associated with its real estate development in the city.

The city's homeless population is growing, behind only NY and Los Angeles.

In a statement, Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice president, said Amazon was "disappointed" in the vote and remains "very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here".

Even though the company made a decision to resume one of its building projects, Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice president, said in a statement, "We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here".

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