Council suspends action on proposed Seattle tax on jobs

May 8, 2020
Written by wpengine

The city council has temporarily suspended consideration of a proposed emergency bill that would place a payroll tax on larger Seattle businesses, according to a Seattle Times report.

Some council members have expressed concern that consideration of the tax is out of compliance with Governor Jay Inslee’s coronavirus proclamation that prohibits the council from meeting in person or remotely unless the meetings are in response to the outbreak. The council has twice met remotely about the proposal.

The decision by Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda at least stalls further consideration of the idea. Inslee’s proclamation is currently set to expire on May 31.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a sponsor of the proposal, said the tax could raise $500 million a year and that some proceeds could be directed toward affordable housing and relief to needy families. She has mentioned the possibility of seeking a public referendum on the idea.

The proposal was for a payroll tax on hundreds of Seattle businesses with annual wage costs of more than $7 million. Mayor Jenny Durkan among its opponents said it would discourage companies from hiring to recover from the financial hardships that have resulted from Inslee’s Stay Home Stay Healthy orders. Those orders have forced businesses to close to curb the spread of the virus and avoid fatalities from it, but also removed tax revenues to municipalities throughout the state.

It is unclear whether the council will reconstruct the proposal or meet again about it. For now, councilmembers Gonzalez and Mosqueda say it is too big a risk for further consideration.