Seattle approves 'Amazon Tax' to alleviate city's affordable housing crisis

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Seattle's city council on Monday approved a new tax for the city's biggest companies, including Amazon.com Inc., to combat a housing crisis attributed in part to a local economic boom that has driven up real estate costs at the expense of the working class.

The Seattle City Council on Monday passed a plan to tax businesses making at least $20 million in gross revenues about $275 per full-time worker each year.

"We appreciate Mayor Durkan's efforts to significantly modify the Council's ill-conceived proposal to tax jobs in Seattle", said Downtown Seattle Association CEO Jon Scholes in a statement, after Durkan introduced her original compromise. A count a year ago found King County's homeless population to have reached more than 11,000, and a pro bono report issued last week by McKinsey & Co. for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce found that it would cost about $400 million to address the shortage of affordable housing in the area.

"We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here", Herdener said.

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce criticized the tax, calling it an unfair burden on business owners who have already seen the city increase the minimum wage and pass mandated sick and family leave ordinances. Free for 14 days - no credit card required!

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Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said she also doesn't support sweeps, but didn't feel the amendment supported the unified message they had sent with their vote on the tax.

The head tax has ignited something of an existential debate for Seattle over its monumental growth.

The tax approved Monday is much smaller than the $500-per-head proposal that had been under consideration for many weeks.

"Tax Amazon" was the battle cry for supporters of the measure, claiming the Seattle-based behemoth that employs thousands in the city is not paying its fair share.

Almost 600 large employers making at least $20 million in gross revenue would pay the tax that would begin in 2019.

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Durkan, many businesses such as Amazon and construction-worker unions opposed it, as did Council President Bruce Harrell, Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Debora Juarez and Rob Johnson and some voters critical of how City Hall has been spending money.

But he said Herdener then went on to suggest Amazon's expansion in the city may be curtailed.

"If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a 5-year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction", Starbucks' John Kelly said in a statement.

"P$3 ending the outcome of the head-tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning", a company spokesperson told The Seattle Times earlier this month. Those on the smaller end of that scale say they fear they will feel the brunt of it. It would raise an estimated $44.7 million a year and expire after five years. Today, it has workers in more than 40 buildings and occupies one-fifth of Seattle's first-class office space, totaling more than 10 million square feet.

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