This year’s deadline to pass regular bills out of the Washington House came and went Wednesday without a vote on a closely watched proposal that would allow King County to tax big businesses to raise money for affordable housing and homeless services.
The state Legislature’s two-month 2020 session will move ahead without House Bill 2907, and debate will carry on in Seattle over the city acting on its own to tax large corporations.
The concept behind House Bill 2907 may not be wholly dead, however, co-sponsor Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, said. It could be reintroduced as a special budget/revenue bill not subject to Wednesday’s deadline, and negotiations in Olympia are ongoing, she said.
“Everyone is still at the table and we’ve got 22 days left (in the session),” she said. “We’re making progress every single day. We’re spending multiple hours every day talking about this idea … The policy consideration is not over.”
House Bill 2907 didn’t get a vote because the interested parties are still discussing how the tax money would be distributed across King County and among various priorities, Macri said.
They’re also still discussing “the interaction” between regional and local taxing authority, she said. Some corporate leaders have pushed for a clause that would ban Seattle from enacting its own big-business tax.
Macri and Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, introduced House Bill 2907 last month, proposing that the state let King County collect money for affordable housing and homeless services by imposing a tax of 0.1% to 0.2% on compensation paid by most big businesses to employees making at least $150,000 a year.
Seattle Mayor Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine, who worked to draw up and build support for the bill, said the county could raise up to $121 million a year.
City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has proposed a Seattle-only 1.7% payroll tax on large corporations, saying it could raise $300 million a year.
“It is our understanding the Legislature plans to continue working on this important legislation in the coming days,” Durkan spokesman Ernesto Apreza said in an email Wednesday.
“Mayor Durkan believes that Olympia should act to provide an important new tool to build more affordable housing across King County, and the Legislature has brought together a broad coalition to support investments regionally to ensure they have a lasting, positive impact.”
Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda also has supported House Bill 2907, though she and her council colleagues have spoken out against a ban on Seattle’s ability to tax big businesses.
“I’m sure the bill conversation isn’t over, so my concerns around blanket preemption remain,” Mosqueda said Wednesday. “Hoping to continue to work with our colleagues in the Legislature to bring in the much needed revenue to our region.”