Executives at Amazon, Starbucks and other large businesses with operations in Seattle, Washington are fuming over the newly approved "head tax" passed unanimously by the city council. Does she not realize that the giant, job-providing company could pack up and leave Seattle? Sponsors of the tax said Seattle's biggest-earning businesses should bear some burden for easing a shortage in low-priced housing that they helped create by driving up real estate prices to the point where the working poor and many middle-class families can no longer afford to live in the city.
In a biting statement, a Starbucks spokesman accused city leaders of failing to spend effectively on homelessness and ignoring children sleeping outside. If they can not provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction.
"People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity". However the problem has only deteriorated with the number of homeless students attending public schools in the city tripling to close to 4,300 in the last school year. Four bill sponsors initially pitched a tax of $500 per full-time employee a year but a compromise proposal emerged over the weekend after they could not muster six votes needed to override a potential veto by Mayor Jenny Durkan.
But as the big Seattle companies, which are among the biggest in the US and the world, are criticizing the legislation, supporters of the law, such as workers unions and church groups, said the tax would help the critical housing situation of the city, as the income gap increases and makes it more hard for the working class to pay rent. The tax will provide additional revenue.
Other cities have put in place similar taxes, but critics have said Seattle's tax could threaten the booming local economy and drive away jobs.
Amazon released a statement saying it is disappointed in the city council's decision to introduce a tax on jobs.
But the affected large business groups, about 600 employers that have in turn benefited by Seattle's economic boom, have opposed the legislation and have even threatened the council. "The city does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending efficiency problem", he said.
Jan Gee, CEO and President of the Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA), said that her industry's problem is with the tax's structure.
Before the vote, Gonzalez said the city "has an obligation to take care of the people who are surviving and suffering on our city streets".
Supporters cite data showing Seattle's median home prices have soared to $820,000, and more than 41 per cent of renters in the city ranked as "rent-burdened", meaning they pay at least 30 per cent of their income on housing. "I would ask you to slow down and look at what the impact is beyond Amazon and to your local family-owned businesses". They tend to say what they're going to do and then do it. "I'm confused about why the city of Seattle is fostering an adversarial relationship with businesses in this city".
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