Less than a month after unanimously passing a contentious tax on big business, Seattle’s city council has voted to repeal the so-called “head tax.” Against the fervent protestations of residents and local coalitions—which were extended to a full hour of testimony—council members voted 7-2 to pulled the plug on what would have been a vital source of support for city’s growing homeless population.
Let me break that down for you: The city council unanimously passed the tax, then one month later repealed it. What happened? The city's biggest employer, Amazon, said "what up", flexed it's muscles and reversed the whole thing in a month.
Before breaking down what Amazon did and being awestruck by the raw power, let's learn more about the "head tax" that was proposed from Gizmodo:
In the form it was passed last month, the “head tax” would shave off $275 per full-time employee at companies generating over $20 million in revenue, totaling an estimated $47 million per year for five years. Those funds would then be earmarked for homeless services and affordable housing. Seattle declared its homelessness a state of emergency in 2015, with soaring costs of living and congestion of public services considered the foremost catalysts for the rising homeless rate.
The repeal comes a day after the No Tax on Jobs campaign—a coalition which large businesses which would be affected by the “head tax,” like Amazon and Starbucks, pledged significant financial support to—announced it had gotten over 45,000 signatures, more than enough to generate a referendum to overturn the tax in November. Speakers on behalf of No Tax on Jobs at the City Council chambers repeatedly described the coalition as “grassroots,” however the Public Disclosure Commission of Washington reveals it gave over $246,000 to a firm called Morning in America for “signature gathering and verification” and an additional $20,000 to Cre8tive Empowerment for “campaign/volunteer/social media management.”
Among other things, Amazon reacted to the head tax by halting construction of office towers in downtown Seattle (click link to read more), which caused some freak outs about Amazon potentially leaving Seattle, a prospect that is surely strengthened by the fact that the giant online retailer has 20 cities on a list of finalists for a second headquarters.
"Hell, we'll just pick two places instead of one" is the clear message.
My city, the ATL, is in the running for the second HQ, and the Seattle head tax teaches us one thing pretty clearly - Be careful what you ask for when Amazon comes to town.