Seattle’s Tax to Help the Homeless - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Seattle’s City Council passed a new tax on big business in mid-May in hopes of using it to fund programs for the city’s growing homeless population. Mayor Jenny A. Durkan (D) agreed to impose an annual tax of $275 on all employees working for a business that makes at least $20 million per year in revenue – from construction businesses to Amazon.

The initial proposal was for a $500 tax, but Amazon strongly opposed that figure, along with Starbucks and Expedia. The retail giant halted construction plans on a development site on the north side of the city.

Seattle’s Growing Homeless Population

In 2015, Seattle and King County, Wa., declared a state of emergency over homelessness. However, since then, the number of homeless students in public schools there has tripled – and an additional 23,000 households are at-risk because more than 50 percent of their income goes toward housing costs. Home prices have risen faster in Seattle than anywhere else in the country, where the median home price is $777,000.

Supporters of the measure blame Amazon for turning Seattle into somewhat of a Silicon Valley extension, which caused a huge leap in the cost of living. Amazon says that putting a second headquarters in the city will bring in as many as 50,000 new jobs and that it will invest $5 billion in the city, as well as fill more than 8 million square feet of office space. But with construction plans halted over the proposed tax, those jobs will never materialize.

“This is a message to the working people of America from Amazon saying that if you dare to fight us, we will threaten you with taking away jobs,” said Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Councilmember. “It’s really about billionaires like [Jeff] Bezos making sure people understand the balance of power. People need to know that Jeff Bezos is a bully and people need to fight back against this attempted extortion.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think that this tax measure is a good idea, or that Jeff Bezos is a bully? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino