Sawant supports business tax, rejects potential restrictions

Sawant supports business tax, rejects potential restrictions
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (KIRO)

Amazon and others among the region’s biggest businesses are supporting a countywide tax on themselves to fight homelessness. The countywide tax would generate $121 million for housing, shelter, services and safety.

The payroll tax would be between 1/10 of a percent and 2/10 of a percent on bigger businesses -- and only on the money paid to employees making least $150,000 a year.

The Downtown Seattle Association organized the business coalition supporting the tax.

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“We have a crisis in our community, too many people sleeping outside and we all need to do more: the public sector (and) the private sector,” DSA President Jon Scholes said

Some of the region’s biggest businesses are supporting the tax proposal in the legislature. But they also want lawmakers to ban cities from being able to levy a local business tax on top of the county tax.

A coalition led by Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant says that will leave cities far short of the money needed for homelessness.

“It’s important to recognize that the only reason big business may be quote-unquote at the table is because they want the preemption,” Sawant said at a City Hall news conference.

Sawant points out that she and other progressive council members won in November despite more than $1 million of business spending against them. That’s why she believes Seattle voters would now pass an additional tax on big businesses to fight homelessness.

Jon Scholes asked if businesses would withdraw their support if the legislation didn’t include preemption, Scholes responded, “That has been a key principle of ours that we attack this at a countywide level that’s really where we need to approach this issue.”

Asked if she would reject the countywide tax if the preemption were part of the package, Sawant responded, “I think we have to fight at every inch that we have to prevent the preemption.”

In a statement to KIRO 7, Mayor Durkan didn’t take a position on preserving Seattle’s right to levy additional taxes. She says she’ll continue to evaluate the legislation.