Councilmember Sawant testimony before House Finance Committee Which Chair Frame Never Let Me Finish 2/11/2021
On February 11, 2021, I testified in Olympia to support a capital gains tax on the rich, and to oppose any ban on Seattle’s Amazon Tax. When I spoke against a ban on Seattle’s Amazon Tax, I was censored, and muted. Below are my uncensored prepared remarks, in full. Democratic State Rep. Noel Frame silenced me when I started speaking about how State Democrats said publicly last month that they will preempt or phase out Seattle’s tax on big business to fund housing and Green New Deal programs.
Good morning, Chair Frame, and members of the House Finance Committee.
I am Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s socialist City Councilmember, and a rank-and-file member of the teachers’ union, AFT Local 1789. In support of House Bill 1496.
To say a bill to tax extreme wealth and profiteering is overdue is a gross understatement.
Systematic, long-term starving of public resources has led to criminal underfunding of education, housing, healthcare, jobs, and human services.
But now, even during a pandemic, American billionaires’ net worth has increased by a staggering trillion dollars.
Politicians in Olympia have a historic responsibility to urgently pass statewide taxes on the wealthy.
I urge you to also publicly commit to enact these taxes without undermining local taxing authority.
Last year, our Tax Amazon movement scored a historic victory during the Black Lives Matter street protests, when thousands of community members fought for and won Seattle’s tax on the biggest corporations to fund COVID relief, affordable, publicly-controlled housing and Green New Deal projects. The City Council passed the tax under pressure from thirty thousand people signing our ballot initiative in one month.
[Censored from this point on]
Last month State lawmakers told Crosscut that they will need to quote-unquote “phase out” Seattle’s Amazon Tax as part of enacting a statewide measure. That they wanted to avoid a quote-unquote “double tax” on Seattle-based big corporations! They said they should reduce Seattle’s Amazon tax by the amount of the new state tax (if it’s passed), so that Seattle businesses are not double-taxed.
Our movement is appalled to hear that this.
Working people are not only double taxed, but we are taxed many times over, when it comes to regressive taxes like sales and property taxes.
For an elected official to say they are worried about double taxing big business means one thing and one thing only: they want to shield the most profitable corporations and the wealthiest from taxes at a time when ordinary people are experiencing unprecedented suffering, on top of shouldering regressive taxes.
State lawmakers have said the existence of the Amazon Tax “complicates” your efforts to pass a statewide tax. What is complicated is for working people living without affordable housing, and facing a mounting debt crisis. There is nothing complicated about passing statewide taxes – simply add them on top of Seattle’s tax. Amazon and the other pandemic profiteers can certainly afford it.
The Republicans and the right in the state legislature are blatantly pro-corporate, and are opposed to our Seattle’s big business tax AND statewide big business taxes. But Democrats have the Governor’s mansion, and decisively control both the state House (57 to 41) and the state Senate (29 to 20). Republicans are in the minority. Democrats are in complete control in Olympia. Democrats do not need to negotiate any “compromises” with Republicans. Democrats control the destiny of progressive taxation and any “poison pills.” Democrats cannot blame the Republicans.
It was when Democrats were in control of the state that the record 8.7 billion dollar handout to Boeing executives in 2013 was approved on a bipartisan basis, and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. Three members of today’s Finance Committee (Democrats Larry Springer and Frank Chopp, Republican Ed Orcutt) approved this record gift to a company that has since drained thousands of good, union jobs from our state.
You may say your bills don’t currently include a state ban. But working people should not be fooled by political maneuvers. You have broadcast your intentions to undermine the Amazon Tax to the corporate media, and we know that the real prize big business wants is to overturn this historic victory by Seattle’s working people. And we, our Tax Amazon movement, will not let that happen.
In particular, I am asking lawmakers Frame, Chopp, Macri, Nguyen, Harris-Talley to publicly state your opposition to all forms of preempting, limiting, or phasing out of local progressive taxes.
Undermining Seattle’s tax will not only be a setback to our city, it will be detrimental to the national momentum Seattle’s Tax Amazon movement has generated. As we speak, a movement of socialists and climate justice activists, and Councilmember Konstantine Anthony, a newly-elected progressive on the City Council of Burbank, in California, have launched a Tax Amazon Burbank movement to tax companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Kaiser to fund the needs of ordinary people. We have socialists and activists beginning a fight to tax big entities in Pittsburgh also, this would be a blow to them also.
Washington State Democrats have a responsibility not to the wealthy of this state, but to working people here and around the nation who are fighting for a decent life, for funding for affordable housing, COVID relief, Green New Deal programs.