Amazon 'disappointed' with controversial tax passed by Seattle City Council

The plan approved by the council represents a compromise from the original version which would have taxed companies $500 per employee and raised $75 million a year. "If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction", said John Kelly, senior vice president, Global Public Affairs & Social Impact, in a statement to ABC News.

Should large businesses be the target of initiatives like this?

The tax was vehemently protested by Amazon (which could pay up to $10 million per year), Starbucks, and other large Seattle companies. Seattle faces an impossible choice: Either raise revenue from employers and risk driving them away, or keep levying taxes on voters and risk a backlash that could exacerbate the very problem it's trying to solve.

John Bufford, 47, of Tacoma, Washington, an elected union representative for International Union Painters and Allied Trades, said some members of the council seemed to be more interested in personally targeting Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos rather than addressing the problem.

Explaining the compromise, González said she did not believe the new rate meets the needs of the city, but that it was necessary to get a head tax passed.

The lower tax was the result of feverish negotiations over the weekend between members of the City Council and Seattle's mayor, Jenny Durkan, who had opposed the council's earlier tax proposal.

Co-sponsor of the charge, Teresa Mosqueda, said the bill was an opportunity to provide housing: "People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity", she said. On Friday, the most enthusiastic comment Johnson managed to muster about Durkan's proposal was that it "allows for us to continue that pay-as-you-go process that has been a hallmark of most of the affordable housing investments that we've made as a city". That's roughly 3% of businesses in Seattle, or 585 employers, according to the Council's estimates.

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As an aside, Bagshaw chastised Sawant at a morning briefing, accusing her and her staff of using city copiers to print out her "Tax Amazon" signs, saying she found it inappropriate.

The so-called "head tax" has been hotly debated in recent weeks at raucous meetings and rallies.

A new tax approved by the Seattle City Council has triggered a fierce war of words between the liberal city and its behemoth corporations usually known for their progressive outlook.

Seattle leaders were not daunted by Amazon's strong position.

Although many agreed that Seattle needed to address the city's crisis over homelessness, they differed about the merits of the tax. Sayeth Steve: "I hope that the states are more focused on cutting their budgets and giving tax cuts to their people in their states than they are in trying to evade the law".

The debate over the homeless tax, and Amazon's sharp response, is a reminder that, while cities are right to ask companies to pay their fair share, they should be careful not to go too far, said Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

Outside of Seattle, King County's 2018 budget for homelessness spending was $66.9 million, which includes funding for emergency shelter, prevention, supportive housing, rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and other homeless housing programs and supportive services.

  • Rita Burton