Facepalm: Seattle Approves Taxing Certain Businesses To Subsidize Homeless People Fund

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Starbucks was scathing Tuesday in its criticism of the Seattle City Council, which on Monday unanimously passed a controversial tax on big businesses to help fund affordable housing and fight homelessness.

Both businesses have come out strongly against the tax questioning the city's ability to use tax dollars efficiently and responsibly.

The ordinance will impose a $275-per-employee tax on for-profit companies in Seattle that make $20 million or more.

That's down from the $75 million a year the original proposal would have generated by imposing a $540 head tax per employee for the next few years, after which it would be converted to a 0.7% payroll tax.

Republican State Senator Mark Schoesler says he will be taking action against the tax, introducing legislation that says it is an unauthorized tax unless approved by legislature, which "reinforces current law".

O'Brien, one of the original proposal's sponsors, said slashing the tax was the only practical way to move the measure forward. The head tax is the largest in US history.

Bezos also halted two construction projects in Seattle pending the outcome of the head-tax debate, which Sawant called extortion. The mayor instead proposed a tax of $250 per employee. It would raise an estimated $44.7 million a year and expire after five years.

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A statement from an exec at Amazon, which could end up forking over $10 million annually, says the company is "disappointed" in the vote, noting "we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the Council's hostile approach". The 17-story building, which will have 1 million square feet of office space, is meant to house between 7,000 and 8,000 new employees.

Durkan also took to Twitter after the head tax passed, stating there will be accountability and oversight regarding how the new revenue is spent, and that includes forming an oversight committee, hiring an economist and making sure people are exiting homelessness.

Mayor Jenny Durkan threatened to veto that bill amid stiff opposition from building unions and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce before it was watered down, the Seattle Times reports. "We are highly uncertain whether the city council's anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better". The Seattle region had the third-highest number of homeless people in the United States and saw 169 homeless deaths previous year. A point-in-time count a year ago tallied more than 11,600 homeless people in King County.

Before the vote, she said the city "has an obligation to take care of the people who are surviving and suffering on our city streets".

Even though the company chose to resume one of its building projects, Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice president, said in a statement, "We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here".

Supporters cite data showing Seattle's median home prices have soared to $820,000, and more than 41 percent of renters in the city ranked as "rent-burdened", meaning they pay at least 30 percent of their income on housing.

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