Numerous people responded to stories by The Seattle Times last week, outlining the measure to create a new revenue stream for homelessness services. Here is what some of them said.
Here’s what people are saying about a proposal by Seattle City Council members to tax big employers, such as Amazon, to address the city’s housing affordability crisis.
A number of people across the region responded to a series of Seattle Times stories in the last week via email and social media, sharing their opinions of the so-called head-tax as tension surrounding the proposed measure climaxed with Amazon taking an unprecedented stand against it.
Supporters say the new tax would generate an estimated $75 million needed for housing and homeless services by taxing large employers about about $500 per employee per year.
The majority of responses were critical of the proposed tax — siding with frustrated homeowners in Ballard and iron workers downtown — or trashed the City Council’s approach to the homelessness crisis. At least one person said they were torn on the matter. Several gave support.
Here are several of the responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.
Go, Amazon, go
I am fully supportive of Amazon and the other businesses fighting the City Council on this. Amazon and businesses are in business. The council doesn’t need more good money to throw away after bad spending of taxpayer dollars with minimal benefits to all. They are enabling homelessness, not helping.
— Steven Dragos, Renton
The head-tax incentivizes the largest growth engine in the Seattle economy, and other companies as well, to move both current and future jobs elsewhere. Amazon sent a clear signal by announcing more jobs for Vancouver, B.C, and Boston and yet the City Council ignored this. The number one job of the City Council is to maintain a friendly business environment that attracts growing companies, which in turn offer good jobs, which then generate all kinds of tax revenue.
The City Council has been increasingly captive to narrow interest groups. It ignores the recommendations of moderate, pro-business groups, such as the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Only elections can prove whether this thesis is true, but in the meantime a great deal of damage will be done if the proposed head-tax passes.
— Mark Dawson, Madison Park
It’s time to pay up
Cry me a river that Amazon has to start contributing to restoring the city. A housing crisis, plus opiate crisis, needs resources. Do you want to pay for it? So, let’s let the big money bags foot the bill for once.
— Unidentified Seattle Times reader
King county is unlivable for anyone who makes less than six figures. Amazon is a huge part of the reason. Bezos can afford the tax and should pay it, so that Amazon employees don’t have to commute 2-3 hours per day.
— Facebook commenter
A money management problem?
It’s ironic that the Seattle City Council wants more funding for homelessness when it’s just been announced that the current funds are being misused and not coordinated. And is becoming anti-business really the way to solve the homelessness problem, when basic city services for tax-paying property owners are so poorly managed?
— Anne Clarke, Seward Park
After Boeing’s move, not again
I’m torn on this. In one aspect, I remember the ‘one-off’ targeted tax on Boeing, which resulted in them moving the HQ to Chicago. I don’t think we’d want to see that again.
At the same time, Amazon has paid zero federal taxes through loopholes and legal creativity.
— Unidentified Seattle Times reader
Amazon boosts tax money in other ways
I am a 73-year-old retiree. I have no links to big business. I am opposed to the head-tax. It will have vast, unintended negative consequences way beyond Amazon.
Where is the city’s exponentially increasing income from real-estate taxes going? Why not use that to cover housing and homeless needs.
Most businesses utilize, what accountants refer to as, a sources and uses of funds statement, indicating all cash flows. Have you seen one for Seattle? I haven’t. I just know my real-estate taxes for my primary residence have gone up 49 percent between 2016 and 2018. That is a combination of increased assessment and tax increases.
Look around at all of the construction. Just think about what a residential high-rise development of a former parking lot does for the tax base. Where are those funds going?
The City Council seems to be being opportunistically greedy and short sighted. Amazon is a blessing to Seattle.
Also, let’s not mix the need for low-cost housing and homelessness. While the two may have some overlap, they are separate issues.
— James Cullen, Seattle
Seattle has benefited from the increase in property values that resulted from the growth of Amazon and other businesses in the city. When property values go up, tax levies increase and the city’s tax revenue climbs. That money should pay for the services the city provides.
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Seattle leaders need to take a hard look at how they are spending the money they have now. When the economy contracts, as it does in normal business cycles, the tax and spending by the City Council will be in trouble.
— Mike Morrell, La Conner
Homelessness: Let’s get to the bottom of it
Employment growth and prosperity has lead to the growth in homelessness? That is simply not true. Look at the numbers. Growth in homelessness has been consistent for over 20 years. We had dramatic increases in homelessness during the recession — that was identified as the cause.
The tax implies the employers are responsible. That is a grossly immature presentation by people who are seeking to simply cover the problem with dollar bills.
Amazon’s growth was a gift to the city. How many cities would kill to have this employment in their town?
How many tax dollars have increased because of the economic growth?
First, city leaders must research the real cause for increased homelessness — and it’s not the rise in rent. Then, take that information and initiate a plan to reverse this trend.
— David Knowles, Edmonds