Dow Constantine would prefer the Seattle City Council not act on any head-tax proposal until there's a better regional approach to solving homelessness.

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UPDATE: Seattle City Council committee approves original head-tax package; rejects Durkan’s more modest plan


King County Executive Dow Constantine says a $75-million-a-year head-tax plan before the Seattle City Council is misguided and ought to be shelved in favor of a regional approach to tackling homelessness.

“I have been working two decades or more trying to bring jobs to the region,” Constantine said in an interview. “I am very concerned the decision being put before us right now is going to harm our attempts to keep jobs and recruit jobs to our region.”

The City Council has been considering the controversial tax of about $500 per employee, per year on companies that gross at least $20 million annually. Amazon and other businesses have hotly opposed the plan, as have trade-worker unions. But other unions and activist groups argue the tax is badly needed to make a dent in the city’s homelessness crisis.

Constantine said a better approach is to slow down and work with a regional effort called One Table. Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus announced the effort to bring together business, government, service providers and others to develop a countywide plan on housing, shelter and services.

Constantine said the City Council approach, which started with a “progressive revenue task force” put the cart before the horse.

“I don’t believe we should be starting with the question of resources before we’ve identified the solutions,” he said. “Identify the major components of a long-term solution to homelessness. Once we agree on the things we are going to do first, identify which governments, which businesses, which nonprofits and philanthropies will take on each piece of the puzzle … identify the gap in resources, and together agree on a region-wide public and private approach to filling that gap.”

At the same time, Constantine said quicker action should be taken to get people off the streets and into emergency shelter while a long-term plan is developed.

Constantine’s comments came Thursday afternoon, prior to news that Durkan is proposing a smaller head-tax alternative. That plan would impose a tax of about $250 per employee and require reauthorization in five years.

“I think a lesser version would be better than the original proposal,” Constantine said. “Ideally it would be postponed until we have done these other logical steps and it would be considered in the context of what we really need — a region-wide funding solution.”

He added that the debate over the tax has been too divisive.

“I think it would be a good time for us to all calm down, take a deep breath and consider what we can do united,” Constantine said.