Seattle businesses strike back against head tax with campaign for referendum

Seattle businesses strike back against head tax with campaign for referendum

The effort by employers to undo the town’s newly handed enterprise tax opens a brand new section within the contentious battle over Seattle’s response to the homelessness disaster. Deadline for 17,632 signatures is June 15.

A coalition of businesses formally started a campaign Friday to overturn Seattle’s just-passed head tax by way of a citizen referendum, opening a brand new section within the metropolis’s contentious debate concerning the homelessness disaster and what to do about it.

“We have until June 15 to gather 17,632 good signatures to send this to the ballot in November to give Seattle a referendum on this issue and, I think even more so, on the Seattle council,” stated Saul Spady, president of an promoting firm and grandson of Dick Spady, founding father of Dick’s Drive-In.

The referendum campaign, calling itself No Tax On Jobs, is chaired by James Maiocco, chief enterprise improvement officer with Pushpay, a Redmond-based tech agency, based on a submitting Friday with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC). The group had no political contributions listed as of Friday. Spady is listed because the group’s secretary.

On Monday, the Seattle City Council unanimously authorized a yearly tax of $275 per full-time worker to be levied on businesses with at the least $20 million yearly in Seattle income, starting subsequent 12 months.

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The $47 million to $50 million anticipated to be raised by the tax every year could be used to fund new low-income housing and homelessness providers underneath a nonbinding decision the council handed similtaneously the tax. Actual spending choices could be made as a part of the town price range course of within the fall.

To qualify for the autumn poll, backers of the referendum might want to collect legitimate signatures of 17,632 registered Seattle voters — eight p.c of the turnout within the final mayoral election — inside 29 days of the efficient date of the ordinance, based on the City Clerk’s workplace. Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the ordinance on Wednesday. If the referendum will get sufficient signatures, the town council should place it on the subsequent scheduled election poll. A major election is scheduled for Aug. 7, although the deadline to put measures on the poll for that was May 11. The subsequent normal election is Nov. 6, when voters will already be offered with a property tax levy to fund training.

Supporters of the tax referred to as for businesses to desert the referendum try.

“Seattle’s exploding homeless population is a symptom of our city’s extraordinary economic growth and astronomical home prices,” stated SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, a union representing health-care and behavioral-health staff, lots of whom work instantly with individuals experiencing homelessness. “The corporations who are profiting most — the top 3 percent — should rightfully pay a fair fee to address the problems they create.”

At least 585 firms would face the tax, based mostly on metropolis tax receipts from 2016, together with worthwhile know-how and professional-services companies and low-margin grocery shops.

City council members and Durkan didn’t return requests for remark late Friday.

State lawmakers are contemplating strikes to undo the Seattle’s new tax. State Sen. Mark Mullet, an Issaquah Democrat, stated he intends to introduce laws subsequent 12 months that might cease cities from implementing each a Business and Occupation tax and a head tax, “which would preclude Seattle from being able to keep the one they passed.”

Cities together with Lynnwood, Kirkland, Redmond and Vancouver cost per-employee charges — de facto head taxes — as a part of their metropolis enterprise licenses. Lynnwood fees $93 a 12 months for every worker working 15 hours or extra every week. Kirkland fees $105 per full-time worker.

But with the passage of the head tax, Seattle seems to be the one municipality within the state with each a head tax and a Business and Occupation tax.

Mullet stated he has assist for his proposal from Republicans. “I need to find some more Democrat supporters,” Mullet stated.

He stated he additionally favors extra state funding for inexpensive housing and is optimistic that “the political will is there to make those investments.”

Businesses and a few Seattle residents have bristled on the tax, calling it a job killer and questioning the effectivity of the town’s previous spending on homelessness packages.

Spady stated he expects businesses to solicit signatures for the referendum at their institutions. The campaign additionally plans to make use of paid signature gatherers, he stated.

The effort is supported by an “incredibly diverse mix of individuals, small businesses and large businesses across all sectors of Seattle,” Spady stated, although he declined to reveal particular names past his personal agency, Cr8tive Empowerment, and Dick’s, which is owned by members of his household, however which he doesn’t personal instantly.

James Sido, spokesman for the Downtown Seattle Association, stated the group stays firmly against the tax. “We’re hearing very strong interest from our membership regarding a referendum,” he stated.

The Seattle Times editorial board on Wednesday referred to as for a referendum to repeal the head tax, however the newspaper’s president, Alan Fisco, stated the corporate has not contributed monetary assist for the referendum, nor does it plan to.

The campaign ensures the struggle over how to reply to the homelessness emergency declared by metropolis and King County leaders in 2015 will proceed.

Homelessness in King County has risen almost 23 p.c since 2014 to complete almost 12,000 individuals on the final point-in-time rely, together with an enormous improve in individuals sleeping exterior. Results of a 2018 rely of homelessness are anticipated on the finish of May.

The City Council narrowly rejected a head tax in November that might have raised $25 million, and it spent months earlier this 12 months finding out and drafting a successor invoice. Draft laws launched in April sought to lift $75 million.

Business teams instantly opposed the measure, nevertheless it was Amazon that ignited a enterprise backlash to the vote with the retailer’s assertion early this month that it might pause some development planning pending the end result of the vote.

Durkan, who had indicated she would veto a bigger tax of $500 a head, labored out a compromise with council members final weekend that lower the tax to $275 and set an expiration date of 2023 except the City Council voted to resume it.

Amazon stated after the vote that it might proceed development on one constructing it had paused throughout City Council deliberations, however is apprehensive about future development in Seattle and continues evaluating choices for one other constructing it had dedicated to leasing.

Amazon didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the referendum Friday.

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