Seattle to strike affordable housing tax after Amazon-led coalition’s prolonged protest

Axed head tax was meant to pay for homeless services and affordable housing

New York Weekend Edition /
Jun.June 16, 2018 12:04 PM

(Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives, Steve Jurvetson)

Jeff Bezos wasn’t about to let a head tax on Amazon’s 45,000 employees take a chunk out of his bottom-line.

Led by Amazon, a coalition of Seattle companies banded together to successfully oppose a new tax of about $275 per employee for any business that generated more than $20 million in revenue per year, according to CNBC. (When the city initially proposed the tax, it was pegged at $500 per employee, however Amazon’s outcry prompted City Council to then lower the tax.)

After a month of ongoing debates and the business coalition’s fundraising campaign to repeal the tax through a referendum that would have taken place in November, local lawmakers announced their intention to repeal the measure themselves. Councilwoman Kshama Sawant later tweeted the decision “is a capitulation to bullying by Amazon,” according to CNBC.

The result: the loss of roughly $48 million funding, which Seattle City Council had earmarked to pay for affordable housing and homeless services. The city has the third-largest rate of homelessness in the country and soaring home prices, which have doubled since Amazon made Seattle its home, that dovetails with the city’s shortage of housing stock to create a full-blown crisis by local accounts.

The news comes amid Amazon’s ongoing hunt for a second headquarters. The company’s response to Seattle’s move to try to create the head tax, which included threats and even a work stoppage on one of its new office buildings, was concerning to at least one city still in the running to win the new mega-office, Denver. [CNBC]Erin Hudson


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