Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Seattle council to tax Amazon and other big companies to fight homelessness

Seattle council to tax Amazon and other big companies to fight homelessness

Amazon, the city's largest employer, said after the vote that it would go ahead with planning for a major downtown office building that it earlier had put on hold over its objections to a much stiffer tax plan originally proposed.

Socialists and self-styled members of the "Seattle silent majority" squared off prior to Monday's vote.

Residents showed up two hours before the vote Monday to wait in line and claim a space in the chamber, which was packed to capacity.

Proponents say people are dying on the streets, and while city-funded programs found homes for 3,400 people past year, the problem deepens. "So you're either well-off and hungry or homeless and well fed".

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If council members vote as they did to advance the tax, the mayor would then have to decide on whether to sign it into law, let it become law or veto it.

After the Seattle City Council vote on Monday, the Transit Riders Union, which is affiliated with the Housing for All Coalition, said the new tax would begin alleviating the city's housing crisis.

"As a union rep, we meet with our employers to discuss our problems and come up with solutions jointly", Bufford said. After that, it would have risen to an estimated $39 million a year.

"The spending keeps going up and we're not seeing results". At a meeting with Capitol Hill business representatives last week, the duo said that data and expert reports plus their own experiences seeing the streets of the city convinced them that more needs to be invested in addressing Seattle's housing and homelessness problems. The Seattle region had the third-highest number of homeless people in the United States in 2017. Seattle home prices are rising faster there than anywhere else in the country. He said the city's revenue growth has outpaced its population increase. A count previous year found King County's homeless population to have reached more than 11,000, and a pro bono report issued last week by McKinsey & Co. for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce found that it would cost about $400 million to address the shortage of affordable housing in the area.

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In a 8-1 vote, the council - some reluctantly - chose a new version of the plan introduced as Amendment 24 during the afternoon full council session with sponsorship from eight of the nine members - all save Capitol Hill's District 3 rep, Kshama Sawant.

González said she was pleased to have the support of nearly every councilmember - Sawant did not support the amendment, but ended up voting in favor of the tax - but disappointed she couldn't find support for more.

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.

Scruggs reported from Seattle.

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