$100 per employee tax proposal alarms Seattle businesses

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

SEATTLE - Jon Bridge runs jewelry stores named for his grandfather, Ben Bridge.

The company's headquarters is across the street from Seattle Center.

He stood in a small public plaza where his employees used to have lunch. 

It's filled with tents.

"As you can tell right now you can't have a break here, you've got people who have camped out," Bridge said.

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Bridge said he wants a solution to the homelessness crisis, but does not support the proposal at City Hall to tax employers $100 per worker.

The tax would apply to companies that make $5 million or more a year.

Councilmembers Mike O'Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley proposed it, hoping to raise more than $20 million for programs to address the homeless and housing crisis. 

That would be on top of the $63 million Mayor Tim Burgess has already proposed for 2018.

"Now we have an opportunity to invite businesses, the top 10 percent most affluent businesses, to come to the table. They also want to solve this problem, what we're saying is here is how you can help," Harris-Talley said. 

"We don't need to throw more money at the situation. We need to examine the manner in which we spend the money that we actually have to deal with the homeless," Bridge said.

The proposal has also drawn the ire of Seattle-based Bartell Drugs.

George D. Bartell wrote to the City Council, "enough is enough." 

"We are a significant employer here in Seattle and we reached a breaking point on the city-imposed fees and costs," Bartell wrote.

Harris-Talley says she's actively talking with businesses, and signaled she's open to adjusting the proposal.

"There's some nuance in that conversation that quite frankly Councilmember O'Brien and I are aware of and we're open to having a conversation about that," Harris-Talley said.

The head tax is being discussed during the 2018 budget process going on for the next month at City Hall.

 

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