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Seattle To Vote on Controversial Head Tax on Amazon, Others

Seattle To Vote on Controversial Head Tax on Amazon, Others

One of Seattle's most controversial proposals in years passed unanimously in city council today - but after some significant revisions.

"How is that a compromise?" The tax is expected to raise roughly $50 million per year toward outreach efforts for the homeless, including affordable housing and emergency shelter. Other estimates put that number at about $54 million in 2017.

Friday, a council committee approved a veto-vulnerable $500/employee version of the tax.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant said Amazon was attempting to "blackmail" the city. "At the same time, our city must urgently address our homelessness and affordability crisis", she added in a recent emailed statement. "Because this ordinance represents a true shared solution, and because it lifts up those who have been left behind while also ensuring accountability and transparency, I plan to sign this legislation into law".

Amazon's Herdener said the company will resume construction planning on the office tower it had paused.

Whether Amazon will accept the new $275 per-employee cost remains to be seen.

"When you work minimum wage at $15 an hour, you end up spending 90 percent or more of it on rent and the rest of it in bills", said Alexander Finch, 27, who identified himself as homeless and living in one of the city's tent communities.

"I am quite confident that as we move forward, we can continue to have the best city anywhere for people to do business ... this is the city where their workers are going to want to be and that's why they're going to want to be here", she said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine opposed the higher head tax and praised Durkin's compromise proposal. However, it still does not support the compromise.

Other cities have implemented similar taxes, but critics say Seattle's tax could threaten the booming local economy and drive away jobs.

The tax passed by a veto-proof unanimous vote. It would raise an estimated $44.7 million a year and expire after five years, according to the Council.

Supporters and opponents of Seattle's head tax pack City Council chambers for Monday's vote.

"There is no way this tax will be a burden on big businesses in Seattle", Sawant told The Seattle Times. Sawant did not deny it and said she believes it is OK to use taxpayer-funded equipment for her "movement". The Council's spending plan allocates 60-70 percent for affordable housing and the remaining funds will go toward shelters and other homeless services.

The city's homeless population is growing, behind only NY and Los Angeles. A new report concluded that it would require about $400 million a year, conservatively, to solve the homelessness crisis in King County.

"We took a huge step past year", said Meg Olberding of HSD.

The city also pays $1.6 million to the Seattle Police Department Navigation Team and $1.3 million for Navigation Team management and clean-up contracts.

According to the Housing for All Coalition, Seattle needs more than 27,000 affordable housing units for households earning less than $24,000 annually.

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