Seattle City Council scales back tax to aid homeless amid Amazon opposition

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The City Council voted in favor of the so-called "head tax" - a $275-per-employee tax on Seattle businesses that gross at least $20 million annually.

In a bid to appease Amazon and other big local employers - such as Starbucks - that opposed the tax measure, council members cut the proposed per-worker levy almost by half before voting Monday.

González said she was pleased to have the support of nearly every councilmember - Sawant did not support the amendment, but ended up voting in favor of the tax - but disappointed she couldn't find support for more.

A line winds through Seattle City Hall as "head tax" supporters and opponents prepare for City Council meeting.

Washington State has no income tax, which is enshrined in state law. It accused the city of spending without accountability while ignoring that hundreds of children sleep outside. The tax, which will be $275 year per full-time employee, is expected to bring in about $45 million a year to put toward homelessness services and affordable housing. It's a company, after all, that paid zero dollars in federal income taxes on $5.6 billion in revenue previous year.

Quoted in the Guardian, Teresa Mosqueda, a Seattle councilor, said: "People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity".

"It's disturbing to me that its largest employer would bully it by threatening not to make planned investments in the city", Kingston said.

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

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City Council members worked over the weekend to reach a compromise with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who threatened to veto the original suggestion of $500 per employee, proposing her own plan calling for half that amount.

A survey taken a year ago showed Seattle has around 11,600 homeless on its streets and that one in 16 schoolchildren are without permanent shelter.

In recent years the city has experienced an economic boom, but in tandem with that also an acute affordable housing and homelessness problem. The task force wanted the council to use other potential progressive revenue sources to generate an additional $75 million. "This legislation will help us address our homelessness crisis without jeopardising critical jobs".

Then there's Seattle, Amazon's current headquarters, which the city apparently wouldn't mind driving away.

An estimated 585 businesses will have to pay the tax, according to data from the city obtained by The Seattle Times.

Amazon vice president Drew Herdener issued a statement following the vote, expressing disappointment.

"Make no mistake. Money is power under capitalism", Sawant said, noting that an independent expenditure supporting Durkan accepted $350,000 from Amazon. As such, many homeless individuals are bounced from place to place, or forced to live on the street while seeking affordable housing within the city.

John Boufford with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades said he did not understand the rhetoric against Amazon, which he noted provides good jobs for thousands of people. Anderson said. "I think they will".

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