King county business tax debate continues

Mar 3, 2020
Written by wpengine
A bill under consideration in Olympia that would tax some King County businesses to address homelessness and create affordable housing has come under attack by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
Sawant and her supporters have been lobbying in the capital to kill House Bill 2948, which is backed by some local corporations. It would tax some King County businesses with employees making more than $150,000 to raise funds for housing. Some proponents are pushing for a ban on local governments passing similar taxes, including council member Sawant’s plan to tax Seattle businesses.
Businesses such as Amazon, Starbucks and Expedia support the House Bill, which would raise an estimated $121 million a year for the new Regional Homelessness Authority. But Sawant has estimated that her tax would raise $300 million from more than 800 of the city’s largest businesses to fund only the City’s homelessness programs.
The fate of the state bill will be decided by March 12 when the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year. Sawant has talked of possibly putting the question on a city ballot issue later this year but no further details have emerged on a city business tax.
Homelessness and affordable housing both are issues that have affected Seattle retailers. Public safety concerns in some neighborhoods have discouraged shoppers while many Seattle retail employees have struggled to find affordable housing near their work. While Sawant maintains that cities should retain the freedom to raise the taxes they need to address community needs, others challenge the effectiveness of Seattle city government’s efforts to address crime and homelessness.
Final details regarding terms of either tax idea still are being debated. Washington Retail will monitor this debate and report on outcomes as they occur.