One of Seattle’s largest and oldest companies is telling the city council that “enough is enough” in taxes on local businesses.
The chairman of 127-year-old Bartell Drugs wrote that paying a $100-per-worker annual tax could have dire consequences for its business and employees.
Councilman Mike O'Brien says more money is needed to build upwards of a thousand new housing units over the next decade, plus fund emergency shelters and diversion programs to keep people off the streets and out of jail.
KIRO 7 News reported on Oct. 12 that O'Brien wanted more than the $63 million tax proposed by Mayor Tim Burgess.
"I'm talking about another $20 to $25 million," O'Brien said.
O'Brien wants to get that money from a new per-head employee tax on the biggest businesses in Seattle.
Any company grossing at least $5 million a year would pay about $100 per worker annually. O'Brien says it would apply to about 10 percent of companies.
KIRO 7 News obtained a letter that Bartell Drugs chairman George Bartell wrote to the Seattle City Council on Oct. 19.
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Bartell Drugs claims to be the nation’s oldest family-owned drugstore chain. Founder George H. Bartell purchased a Seattle drugstore in 1890, and over the last century it’s become a trusted northwest institution.
Sixty-four Bartell stores now operate in multiple Puget Sound counties. Additionally, this year the store teamed up with Amazon to sell products through the Prime Now app so customers could take advantage of two-hour delivery.
The city had an employee head tax between 2006 and 2009, when it charged $25 per year per employee.
It was rescinded during the recession.
Jon Scholes of the Downtown Seattle Association told KIRO 7 News that businesses want to help the homeless, but are already are paying a lot to the city.
"Businesses paid more taxes last year than ever before in the history of this city," said Scholes, who called the tax “puzzling.”
"This proposal we think is really short sighted and comes at a time when Amazon is looking for a second headquarters, and this city's response is to tax jobs," Scholes said.
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KIRO 7 asked O’Brien about the proposal being anti-business and hurting jobs.
"I don't think so, and that's certainly not the intent," O'Brien replied. "I want to be clear here, we're not trying to punish businesses at all."
O'Brien's cosponsor is city council member Kirsten Harris-Talley, who was appointed to fill Tim Burgess' position when Burgess became mayor after Ed Murray's resignation.
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