Seattle Approves Tax on Amazon, Starbucks and Big Firms to Tackle Homelessness

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"This is the richest city in the state and in a state that has the most regressive tax system in the country", said councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who wanted a heftier tax. The so-called "head tax" would raise roughly $48 million a year to build new affordable housing units and provide emergency homeless services. The tax has a sunset clause to end December 31, 2023.

"The battle lines on this issue were more starkly drawn than they have been on numerous other progressive issues that the Seattle city council has pushed in recent years", Nelson told TheDCNF, adding the head tax drew opposition from many divergent interests in the city.

Heather Redman, a Seattle venture capitalist, took Amazon's response to the tax more seriously than Sawant. One state Republican lawmaker said he would seek legislation next year to make clear that a city tax on employees, wages or hours is illegal.

Being the third region in the USA with the highest number of homeless people, the city has been driving reforms to tackle the problem, as at least 169 homeless people died on Seattle's streets in 2017.

The debate over who should pay to solve a city housing crisis exacerbated by Seattle's rapid economic growth comes after weeks of tense exchanges, raucous meetings and a threat by Amazon, the city's largest employer, to stop construction planning on a 17-story building near its hometown headquarters.

Council member Lorena Gonzalez said she was disappointed with Amazon's reaction and thinks their message was "clearly hostile toward the city council", and not what she expected from a business that keeps telling them they want to be a partner on city issues, such as the increasing housing problem. It should reexamine existing programs meant to help the homeless and make sure they are working.

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"On one hand, people are looking at affordability of this city and death on the street...on the other hand people are saying "now you are trying to drive out business and good jobs and making policy or investment decisions that can kill our economy because we are a thriving city". Publicly traded companies are not required to break out their total employees or revenue per city.

"This not just an Amazon tax, this is a tax on these family owned grocers, and stores like..."

Tax proponents have said too many people are suffering on the streets and that the problem is deepening even though city-funded programs found homes for 3,400 people a year ago. "West Seattle Thriftway, Metropolitan Market, Uwajimaya, your golden stars here in the community".

"You can see the tax structure has a disproportionate hit on the grocery industry", she told the council. "I don't understand why businesses think it's wrong to help".

"...do not capitulate to Bezos' bullying...we need $400 million a year to solve this problem, don't water this down". However the problem has only deteriorated with the number of homeless students attending public schools in the city tripling to close to 4,300 in the last school year. The Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness found that in the 2015-2016 school year, one in 16 children in Seattle were homeless.

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