Councilmembers M. Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Teresa Mosqueda and Mike O’Brien issued the following statement in response to the “construction pause” announced earlier today:
“Collectively we – the primary sponsors of the business tax currently being discussed in Council – represent 750,000 people who call Seattle home.
“Under our plan, called the Progressive Tax on Business, $75 million would be generated annually from approximately 585 of the City’s largest businesses, with three-quarters of that going toward additional affordable housing.
“This was never a proposal targeting one company, but Amazon made the conversation about them when they expressed their intentions to pause construction on their new office tower pending a vote on our Progressive Tax on Business.
“The company recently reported record-breaking profits of nearly $2 billion dollars in one quarter.
“We estimate that under our plan, Amazon would pay about $20 million annually toward this new tax.
“The lack of affordable housing is a crisis for our entire community. We simply don’t have the revenue necessary to fill the gap. Why? In large part it’s thanks to Washington’s upside-down tax code that puts an inequitable accumulation of wealth ahead of the needs of everyday people. This is what leads to greater and greater income disparity. Not only does Washington State have the most regressive tax structure in the nation, but Seattle’s taxation is the most regressive in the state. The cost of providing services to a City that has grown by 100,000 people in the last 10 years, in a region that continues to grow by 1,000 people a week, is vastly outpacing our revenue in this booming economy.
“Seattle has become the nation’s biggest company town. We’ve shifted to a service-based economy; only a handful of services are taxed, and they are virtually all provided by blue-collar workers. Washington State doesn’t tax income or capital gains, and at the city level, we’re left with very few options to raise the resources we need.
“Our charter requires us, as elected officials – as a city, to protect and enhance the general welfare of people. We’ve added hundreds of new shelter spaces in the last couple years and moved more than 3,000 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing just last year, yet more than 3,800 people sleep outside in Seattle every night. Thousands more compete for shelter and temporary housing. We have an opportunity to treat Seattle residents humanely and with dignity.
“Many employees of large businesses in Seattle are paid so little that their families qualify for state-funded Medicaid. Whether it’s Amazon (~1,100 employees across Washington – costing the state over $7.5 million per year,) McDonalds (~3,900 WA employees costing $17 million per year) or Home Depot (~1,200 WA employees costing $7.4 million per year), big business often leaves many people behind and expects taxpayers to pick up the bill.
“While Amazon didn’t single-handedly cause this problem, they have contributed to the growing income inequality, displacement and housing affordability issues facing our City. That is precisely why — in their visits with 20 other cities — Amazon has sought to speak with elected officials about plans to proactively address those consequences. It seems only fair that as so many struggle to make their way through a tax system that’s rigged in favor of large corporations, that we ask those same corporations to financially contribute to the public health and housing solutions designed to address those consequences.
“Greater shared responsibility equals greater shared prosperity for all, businesses and residents alike.”