West Seattle Chamber, others ask city to “resist” business-tax hikes

As noted here earlier, tonight is city leaders’ next public hearing on the budget (5:30 pm, North Seattle Community College). Today, business groups including the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce added their voices to the budget battle, announcing they’re sending the mayor a letter voicing “strong opposition” to potential business-tax increases to help balance the city budget. Read on for the full text of the letter:

Dear Mayor McGinn:

As representatives of Seattle employers, we write to express our strong opposition to closing this year’s budget deficit by relying on additional revenues that will hurt Seattle employers and the jobs that they create.

We urge you to resist increasing certain business taxes, including a commercial parking tax, and to reinstating Seattle’s tax on jobs—commonly referred to as the Employee Hours Tax—to balance the budget. Increased burdens on employers to balance the budget will delay employment growth and prolong the recession in Seattle and make our city less competitive. We strongly suggest that instead of these and other similar measures, you focus attention on reducing operating expenses as prudent organizations do when their revenues rapidly decline.

Seattle businesses, both large and small, continue to struggle in the worst economy our nation has faced since the Great Depression. While Seattle escaped the early months of this severe economic downturn, today Seattle employers and residents are struggling to make ends meet and find themselves dead center in the middle of this economic crisis. Consider the following:

*The Seattle metro-area’s unemployment rate for March 2010 was 8.5 percent

*Seattle’s office vacancy rate, downtown and throughout the metropolitan area, is well over 20 percent, with some properties experiencing significantly higher vacancy rates

*Seattle currently has fewer private sector jobs than in the year 2000

*The current retail vacancy rate in downtown Seattle is 15.13 percent, over 20 percent in certain neighborhoods such as the Waterfront, Denny Triangle and Belltown, and is a primary concern in neighborhood business districts across Seattle.

Finally, we respect that Seattle has many competing needs and that significant capital projects will require substantial funding. We need an integrated financial and capital plan to help prioritize limited resources before considering the use of new or existing revenues to help finance capital projects. This plan needs to be available to guide decisions this fall.

As you develop the 2011 budget and approaches, we urge you to be mindful of the challenges currently facing Seattle businesses and the citizens looking for work in those businesses, and to reject proposals that would increase taxes and delay further our economic recovery.

The letter as posted on the Seattle Chamber’s site also includes the full list of who signed it – see it here.

18 Replies to "West Seattle Chamber, others ask city to "resist" business-tax hikes"

  • Carson May 4, 2010 (3:14 pm)

    Tough to take any organization serious that fought so hard to defeat Healthcare reform among so many other things. I just assume if the Chamber is for something, then I am against it. They are on the wrong side of most causes that are best for the county it seems.

  • Skeeter May 4, 2010 (4:03 pm)

    Carson, have you ever owned a business?

  • Carson May 4, 2010 (4:14 pm)

    Yep, but that doesn’t mean whats good for my personal agenda is whats best for everyone else. Thats a very selfish way to be. The Chamber seems to be like W towards the end, I never needed to research anything, if he was for it, it was bad for most of us. Bank Regulation? Bad. Healthcare reform? bad. Consumer protections? bad. Its just a knee jerk reaction at this point.

  • mike May 4, 2010 (4:25 pm)

    this is a pretty obnoxious letter. In summary “We have decreed that taxes are bad…instead we want you to get rid of bloat in government”. That’s not the robust debate we need in order to find a solution to the problem. Furthermore asking for the city of Seattle to cut jobs in order to preserve jobs in the private sector seems a bit useless…at least the jobs at the city provide health care.

  • Skeeter May 4, 2010 (4:47 pm)

    Carson, since you own a business, you understand that any additional taxes your business pays means less money your business can spend on employee salaries (reducing unemployment,) employee benefits (like medical,) capital expenditures, and so forth.

    My difficulty with left-leaning folks is that the vast majority of them (there are exceptions) have absolutely no understanding of micro- or macroeconomic concepts, and simply do not understand that healthy businesses produce more societal benefit than any government ever has.

  • Dave May 4, 2010 (4:59 pm)

    Actually Skeeter, some of us “left-leaning” people have degrees in Economics and run finance businesses (like me). I support more regulation for Wall Street even though it will make my job harder, I support healthcare reform even though I may pay more and agree that the Chamber of Commerce is on the wrong side of every debate today. I don’t believe that giving big business every break at the expense of the American people is right. The “vast majority” of right-leaning people just don’t care about anyone but themselves, that’s the difference between us.

  • Michael May 4, 2010 (5:07 pm)

    Although the tone of the letter may be harsh, the point is correct. Business cannot carry the burden of out of control city and state spending. Look around West Seattle at the businesses you like and then imagine them not being there. This is likely to happen unless things start improving. Additional city taxes will only put an earlier end to some of our favorite WS businesses. Do you realize businesses pay a square footage tax? How about air tax? Yep, if your signage is more than a few inches off your building, you have to pay an “air” tax to the city for use their space. Think about that when driving around. Look at all the signs and awnings with names on them and realize there is a tax for those.

    In addition Carson… This is the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, not the National Chamber. I never heard the WS Chamber speak out against health reform. Not all chambers are related. Now go and order something online since you obviously do not value WS businesses!!!!

  • Carson May 4, 2010 (5:25 pm)

    Ditto, what Dave said.

  • The HepCat May 4, 2010 (6:47 pm)

    Ditto what Carson said.

  • Carson May 4, 2010 (6:51 pm)

    Michael, I support West Seatte business, so they can pay taxes….I am also sure they pay dues and support the National Assoc as well. Sorry, they are on the wrong side of most of what I support.

  • Carson May 4, 2010 (7:30 pm)

    I bow down to you Tracy. I HATE the national chapter, please accept my apologies. (walks away with tail between legs)

  • Skeeter May 4, 2010 (7:33 pm)

    I’m just afraid that additional taxes on businesses will lead to more businesses leaving the city/state and before you know it I’ll have to move to Texas or South Carolina because all the jobs will be there. So in a way I am being selfish by wanting lower taxes for businesses. I want the businesses to stay.

  • Ken May 4, 2010 (7:38 pm)

    Yes the WS chamber says it is not a supporter of the national wingnut fest that is the USCC.

    But the verbiage above parrots the “cut government programs” line of the national chamber.

    In 2000 there were hundreds of startups employing thousands, based on wishful thinking and the internet. Some of those companies deserved to die. Many more died of interlocking malfeasance and creative accounting by vulture capitalist and greedy acquisition by stock manipulators.

    Each member of the WS chamber passes their tax burden on to their customers and anyone who tells you different is a liar.

  • coffee May 4, 2010 (8:56 pm)

    A few items, there are more than just chambers that signed this letter. There are several business groups too. Also, does the average consumer know how many taxes a business has to pay each quarter, bi-annual and annually? There are many. There are very few tax breaks. We small business owners spend quite a bit of time either figuring the taxes out ourselves, or, hiring someone to do that which cuts into profit even more, which means higher prices to the consumer.

  • Julie May 4, 2010 (10:47 pm)

    As a proud tax-and-spend liberal, I actually would prefer to reduce business taxes, and shift the tax burden instead to an income tax. But I don’t agree with the bit about reducing operating expenses. Those are cut too much for our health as a city, already. I don’t think the city has the option of instituting an income tax, though. If it’s either/or, I prefer the city raise taxes in the fairest way it can, to prevent further cuts to operating expenses (which would also probably mean cutting jobs.)

  • Patti Mullen May 5, 2010 (8:10 am)

    Tracy, thank you for clarifying that the West Seattle Chamber is not a member of the US Chamber. I’ve had ample opportunity lately to explain this.

    The West Seattle Chamber – one of 30 business organizations – endorsed this letter to the City. Each organization is individually – and as a group – passionate about supporting our local businesses in any way we can, and encouraging government to carefully consider ANY tax increase that would negatively impact ANY business (and the jobs they provide) is a job we take seriously.

    About 3 years ago, I took a local West Seattle businessman down to meet with the City to introduce the concept of streamlining the City’s way of doing business. We can thank local guy Steve Phinney for taking a stab at introducing the City to “Lean Six Sigma” training as ONE idea/method to implement efficiencies in how government operates. (And I think some trial version of the program was introduced at NO COST to the City. Thanks for that as well, Steve!)
    I think this is one example of how business savvy can support our government to think in new ways.

    Former Mayor Wes Uhlman is smart to point out that “we can’t tax ourselves out of a recession.”

    The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce is truly quite passionate about supporting our local business community – and our residents. The Board of Directors are smart people and they hold the well being of our community at heart. Most recently, we spoke out against the TWO utility rate increases that occurred on the tail end of city council’s declaration that no utility hike would occur. Along with other business minded organizations, it wasn’t hard to realize what impact a roughly 19% rate increase would have on business – and residents. The City Council ultimately passed the rate increase – but we were there urging moderation.

    As always, anyone is welcome to call and discuss any position held by the West Seattle Chamber. And thanks WSB for covering the story. It’s no wonder that you’re Business of the Year!

    Patti Mullen, CEO WSCC

  • Michael May 5, 2010 (5:20 pm)

    Thank you Patti. West Seattle appreciates what you do LOCALLY!

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