Two City Council members propose employee head tax to fund Metro

SEATTLE — Two Seattle City Council members Monday unveiled a new plan to save Metro bus routes by forcing employers to pay a tax for every worker.

The proposal by Council members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant was quickly denounced by the Downtown Seattle Association as a "city tax on jobs."

Mayor Ed Murray's plan to save some Metro bus routes now slated to be cut includes a $60 car tab fee and a sales tax increase of .1 percent.

That sales tax is what Licata and Sawant don't like, saying it will most hurt the working poor.

"We need to make sure the burden falls on the big corporations, not the workers at the big corporations," said Sawant, a Socialist.

On Monday, the two councilmembers proposed replacing the sales tax increase by hiking the tax on commercial parking from 12.5 percent to 17.5 percent, and implementing an employee head tax.

Each business in Seattle would have to pay $1.00 or $1.50 per month per employee.

Licata and Sawant say they'll investigate whether to charge big businesses more than small ones, and are directing council staff members to investigate how much the tax would raise.

The city once had an employee head tax.

Between 2006 and 2009, it charged businesses $25 dollars per year per employee.

"I voted it in and I voted it out," said Licata.

The head tax was removed in 2009 during the height of the recession.

Licata acknowledges the old tax was poorly enforced and confusing because it had many exemptions.

This time he wants no exemptions, and insists the economy has improved enough to bring back the tax.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Murray said he had no statement on the proposal.

The Downtown Seattle Association sent a statement saying: "The council was right to repeal this tax in 2009."

"We want companies to come to Seattle and create jobs, and the companies that are already here to grow.  A city tax on jobs sends the wrong message," the organization wrote.