One week ago today, four City Councilmembers, including West Seattle/South Park’s Lisa Herbold and WS-residing/citywide-representing Lorena González, officially unveiled their proposal for the so-called “head tax,” a business tax to raise money they say would be used mostly to build housing for people who are homeless. That was one day after Herbold and González had made their case to a gathering convened by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce (WSB coverage here).
Three days after the proposal went public, there was an at-times-contentious three-hour public hearing at City Hall on Monday night:
On Wednesday, the council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee discussed the proposal, including a plan for how the money would be spent:
On Thursday, Councilmember González sent a survey to “business leaders.” One West Seattle recipient forwarded it to us anonymously. In the e-mail, González addresses the recipients, “In an effort to create an additional tool to engage with you regarding the proposed Employee Hours Tax/Payroll Tax, the Council has developed an online survey which allows business owners to give direct feedback to the Council and express any specific concerns.” Going through the survey, we note that it asks for opinions about housing and homelessness before asking for opinions on the potential head tax and the payroll tax that is proposed to follow it in three years. The survey is here.
Today in her weekly update, Councilmember Herbold went through a copious amount of backstory on the tax proposal and explanation why she supports it. If you aren’t already on her mailing list, you can read it on the city website. She wrote in part:
… The structural cause of homelessness in high cost cities like Seattle is that there is a growing unmet need for more affordable housing created when new workers, earning new high wage jobs, and low-income workers are in competition for limited housing. Lower income workers lose out and the result is that the explosive growth and rising rents that Seattle is experiencing has increased homelessness even as we, each year, exit more than 3,000 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing. A progressive tax on businesses most benefiting from this growth is our best option because we already rely heavily upon regressive property and sales taxes that hit everyone equally. …
Along with Herbold and González, the tax proposal is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda (citywide) and Mike O’Brien (northwest Seattle’s District 6).
The next scheduled official discussion is back before the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee at noon Wednesday (May 2nd), with “issue identification” to be included; then the committee is scheduled to vote on it a week later, at 2 pm May 9th, including consideration of any amendments. If that schedule is kept, the full council would vote at 2 pm on Monday, May 14th. All three of those meetings would have public-comment periods; you also can reach councilmembers via e-mail or phone – contact info is here.