‘Why are we taxing jobs?’ West Seattle business owners challenge Councilmembers González and Herbold on ‘head tax’ plan

(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Though the details of a city “head tax” proposal haven’t been finalized yet, city councilmembers are trying to make the case for it, and that’s why two of them talked with West Seattle Chamber of Commerce members this morning.

West Seattle-residing Councilmembers Lorena González and Lisa Herbold co-chaired the task force that came up with the idea,

About 50 people were at the Disabled American Veterans hall in Delridge to hear them out and ask questions. And there were multiple mentions of the letter that Mayor Jenny Durkan has sent to the council, urging some caution:

The chamber offered the councilmembers a chance to speak beforetaking questions. Herbold opened by thanking attendees:

“This is really important … and really appreciated … that you took out this extra time in the week for this conversation.” She offered background on how the proposal had evolved, starting with the one that the council rejected last year during the budget process before expressing “an intent to enact such a proposal at a later date” after a “more deliberative process.”

The task force formed in late 2017, started meeting in January, and made recommendations in March, for $150 million in new revenue, half to be collected through the head tax – “employee hours tax” as it’s formally known. Herbold mentioned that the One Table regional task force meantime was looking at how to “make a dent in (the homelessness) crisis.”

She noted that 80 percent of the head tax revenue is to be “devoted to building affordable housing.” Why isn’t current spending “making a difference”? Herbold said they’re often asked. It’s because that money is “providing emergency services for people,” not going toward permanent housing, so that, she said, is why the new money would go thee.

She said the task force recommended potential ways to structure the tax, which she said would only affect about five percent of businesses. “We know sometimes large businesses with many employees don’t sometimes have that much profit,” she acknowledged, so they’ve tried to be cognizant of that.

Herbold recapped the three options proposed for the tax (above, from page 15 of the report), and also talked about the particularly controversial “skin in the game” fee that was proposed for all businesses bringing in more than $500,000 to pay – “a moral statement,” but Herbold said many found that term offensive “because as business owners, you all have skin in the game.”

The task force’s first briefing for councilmembers was just a month ago, on March 14th. An April 23rd public hearing in Council chambers is one of the next major steps; draft legislation is expected to be available before then, Herbold says. (ADDED: It was made public the day after this event.)

González said the recommendations from the task force “are not the starting place, they are the landing place. … What we’re hoping to be able to do through this process and processes at City Hall are to dig into details of what the recommendations are, how they will impact businesses, what kind of difference (the money could) make in terms of visible homelessness through the city.” She insisted “we truly are here open and receptive to your feedback.”

After the councilmembers’ statements, the floor was opened for that feedback. First to speak was a manager for VCA West Seattle Veterinary Hospital, which, while it’s part of a large company, “operates as a small business,” she said. “We don’t get bailed out with our big company behind us, and if you do another 24 cents (an hour) to us, our hospital may have to close.” They have 12 employees.

Dave Montoure of West 5 asked flat out, “Why are we taxing jobs?”

“This isn’t intended to be a tax on jobs,” insisted Herbold. “We are looking to move toward a payroll tax instead of a per-hour tax … ” but she said that would take some time to “transition.”

González added, “I think really, Dave’s question makes me think about issues around accountability and impact and untintended consequences … I want to make it clear we are thinking about these things.” She mentioned other cities with similar taxes and that she’s been asking for data to see if “this type of tax results in the loss of jobs.” But she said she’s been told that kind of data doesn’t exist.

Herbold recalled the “head tax” that used to be in effect in Seattle. “That existed, it was on all businesses in the city … the reason it was removed was not because it was a tax on jobs but because of the complexity around it and its connection to transportation.. it was a difficult tax to administer.”

Gary Potter from Potter Construction (WSB sponsor) then asked, “Once you build these low-income houses, is this tax going to go away?”

Herbold said the concept of “a sunset” has been discussed – it’s in the mayor’s aforementioned letter, too – and that “there is interest in reducing the tax over time” but the money is expected to go toward 20- to 30-year housing bonds that will require revenue for all those years. “We may not need the full 75 million dollars a year in the future… 10 years is the framework we’ve been looking at … we may be able to dial (it) down but we will still need a revenue source to pay off about $10 million a year.”

González said “figuring out how we reform our tax system at the state” would be a priority in the meantime and noted the oft-cited status of Washington as having one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation.

Some in the audience said they would be happy to see the B&O tax go away. González said their discussion with the mayor includes how small/medium businesses could get some relief from that and that they hope to develop “creative/innovative ways” to provide that relief. Herbold added that the mayor’s letter included some “good ideas.”

Another local businessperson said that he is a landlord and they are bearing the brunt of a lot of “public good” measures – the council says “this is good for everyone” but “they just tax the landlords,” he said. “With this tax in that bucket as well … if it’s good for everyone, why are just businesses being taxed? If it’s a greater good cause, then everyone should be taxed.” A smattering of applause greeted that. He accused them of making an “easy” move by taxing just businesses.

Herbold replied, “The idea behind this tax is … we already have a regressive taxation system, so the people who earn the least are paying the most under our ‘everybody pays the same’ system … We are trying to construct a task that, just a little bit, rights that.”

Next question was from a local lawyer. “We keep hearing this phrase … I hear this a lot from my clients … that this is a ‘homelessness crisis’ … I think (it’s) more (that) we’ve had a local government crisis … not the current City Council, this goes back 15 years. I want to thank you for stepping up … to actually (try to) solve those problems. But … those before you have made serious policy mistakes in how to handle the homelessness crisis and the budget for that.” He said he believes people have been encouraged to come here and “rather than throw more money at the problem, I want to know how you’re changing the existing policies … and specifically what you’re doing to enforce existing laws,” such as allowing camping in parks.

“There’s a lot to unpack there,” González observed. She referred to complaints such as “(homeless people) were offered shelter but they wouldn’t go.” She said, “We have a lot to reform in (the shelter system) …” saying people choose not to go because they feel unsafe in shelters. “So over the past couple years … we have undergone an effort to improve conditions” in local shelters, “to incentivize people to move from the outside to the inside. We have a lot of work to do in that area,” but she said last year’s RFP process was the first of its kind. “We now have attached to that, performance metrics, accountability metrics … I think we are moving in that direction … trying to unwind, frankly, decades of not getting it right. … It’s going to take a while before we see the impacts on the street. … We get that we need to see outcomes.”

Second, she said, the city Human Services Department “has never had a wholesale audit of its homelessness-services department,” and while she said she has “confidence” in the department, auditing it would make sense, and figuring out how to improve the city’s contracts. The audit is being “scoped out” right now.

After Herbold said that they were working on outcome-based rules for service providers, one audience member pointed out that some organizations that had funding pulled had it restored.

Next, a rep from Quail Park Memory Care Center of West Seattle (WSB sponsor) wondered “how does de-incentivizing employment help the current job stability and homeless problem?” He also mentioned that Chicago had tried and repealed a similar tax.

Herbold said that one of the things that make a city livable, that make an employer want to bring people there, is funding for important things … such as people not sleeping in doorways, not having garbage and human waste in the streets. “I don’t agree that this (tax) is going to dis-incentive this being a place people want to bring employees.”

“All those things are the result of current city policy not to interfere with the homeless people,” the questioner said.

“There is no current policy not to interfere with the homeless people,” Herbold countered, saying there are 400 unauthorized encampments in the city but city employees are out dealing with them all the time.

He followed up, “How does de-incentivizing payroll hours not contribute to unemployment … ?”

Herbold replied, “When we implement new laws, we will evaluate the outcome of those laws,” noting that the mayor has recommended an oversight committee and having an economist look at whether the tax would have unintended consequences.

Next, an alternative was proposed by Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor). She said that as a landlord she had been hearing from renters saying they had to move because their homes were being sold. She wondered if a real-estate tax had been considered, because it could “yield huge dollars and not make a different in the profit of people selling them.” Those sales are leading to homelessness, she said, so that’s what should be taxed, “not all businesses.”

Herbold said real-estate excise taxes currently can’t be used for housing.

“If you can tax drinks within the city, why can’t you tax real estate?” Higuera followed up.

Herbold blamed the state constitution, saying “we have a little more authority to tax things we want to discourage the use of.”

“Like jobs,” someone called out.

Next, Keith Hughes of West Seattle Electric and Solar said he hadn’t heard anyone discussing the infrastructure of the city and its “ability to manage any of this … if I wrote you a $75 million check right now, how long would it be until any of these houses were standing up? … The first two years would be wasted going through the DPD” (now the Department of Construction and Inspections). He said that the problem isn’t going to be helped by doing something now that won’t manifest results for five years. “Get DPD under control so you can actually build housing.”

González said that while she hasn’t ever had to seek a permit to build something, she has gone through the permitting process, related to her condo in The Junction, and understands the complaint, adding that there is work under way “to get rid of a lot of red tape for nonprofit housing developers.” She also mentioned 2,300 housing proposals are “waiting in the pipeline” already – waiting for funding.

Final question: Dan Austin of Peel & Press wondered “what study backs that $75 million is going to be the magic number” that solves the crisis. He also voiced concern that the membership of the task force developing the tax included people who stand to make money from it. And as a restaurateur, he said, he can’t just keep endlessly raising prices, though the city seems to be able to endlessly raise taxes. “This is a regressive tax – this is going to come down to the people who buy goods and services.”

“$75 million is the target for this revenue source,” Herbold said, but reiterated that $150 million was the overall funding need cited by the task force. “We’re looking at One Table to make up the other $75 million. … Even that $150 million is not going to solve the problem … the number of units needed …” is larger than what that will fund, but she contended “it will make an appreciable difference.” Meantime, task-force participation “routinely” involves experts in the field, and she countered that the people who participated “are not going to personally profit.” What about their organizations, since low-income-housing developers were represented? “There is nothing untoward about” the composition of a task force, Herbold said. The questioning about that grew a little more acrimonious and González interjected that “maligning each other” wasn’t going to help anything. Regarding task-force members, she added, “I don’t think these folks came to the table because they are looking to make a buck … (they) have spent their lives dealing with human services, human suffering,” González countered. Overall, “the programs that are being recommended for funding … are very popular in our community.”

Chamber board chair Pete Spalding closed by reading part of the mayor’s letter aloud – the parts in which she urged the council to not harm small businesses.

To continue tracking the tax proposal, follow agendas for the council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee. (González is a member of that committee and Herbold is not, though all councilmembers are allowed to participate in all committees if and when they choose.) The public hearing on April 23rd will be at 5:30 pm in City Council chambers downtown.

P.S. As for the crisis that the new revenue is supposed to ease – the West Seattle Chamber is sponsoring a discussion about that too, this Saturday (April 21st), 1 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW), as previewed here.

83 Replies to "'Why are we taxing jobs?' West Seattle business owners challenge Councilmembers González and Herbold on 'head tax' plan"

  • Sna April 19, 2018 (4:25 pm)

    Homeless largely aren’t moving to Seattle from all over the country, but they are relocating here from the rest of the county and state.  We should really be asking King County and the state to fund this. 

    • Gatewood April 19, 2018 (5:49 pm)

      One Table is a countywide solution but the council is trying to beat them to the funding.  They built a true group of leaders, service providers, philanthropist and busineeses to address the issue.  Their recommendations should be out shortly but the city is pushing this plan ahead.  It will undercut the One Table group.  So sad!

  • MJ April 19, 2018 (4:26 pm)

    The City already taxes too much!  Stating this I pose the following:

    I have a question why not use this potential revenue resource to pay for pre school and education instead of the proposed levy? 

    And then let the voters decide via a vote if they want to pay added property taxes for more homeless spending.

    • Susan April 20, 2018 (9:31 am)

      @MJ, you are correct… early education and success in primary/secondary education (including adequate support services)are a much better long term investment than putting a finger in the dike.

  • BAS April 19, 2018 (5:04 pm)

    I like Option 2, but with no business under $8 million is revenue being charged. Any of the options are fine as long as you don’t tax businesses under $8 million in revenue. 

    I’ll support this only if there’s at least an exemption for businesses grossing less than $5 million. I could be persuaded to support a small, minimal tax for businesses grossing $5 to $8 million. 

    The burden of this tax needs to be on Amazon, Starbucks, Zillow, and all the other corporate entities that have not paid for their impact on the community. They need to replenish the resources they deplete. 

  • The Truth April 19, 2018 (5:12 pm)

    I was at this meeting.  Hard for me to pick what the highlight of the morning was.  

    Was it when Herbold talked about changing the name of the “skin in the game” tax because it was offensive or the fact she sidestepped the Mayor’s call to remove it (not change it to a more respectful name)?

    Was it listening to them talk over and over again about fiscal responsibility built into the contracts and then watching them have to answer someones question and confirm that they had restored millions in funding back to groups that didn’t meet the contract requirements? (so accountable!!!)

    Was it listening to Herbold talk about a 5 or 10 year “sunset” on the tax and then get called out that part of the tax would have to remain in place for 20-30 years to pay off the bonds?

    Was it when Gonzales verbally attacked a businesses owner for asking questions about the composition of the task force members that also stand to benefit from this funding.  Pressed on why pot shops were exempt from this tax in the recommendation and there happened to be an owner of pot shops on the task force but instead of answering further attacked the business owner?  (Also, one of your own fellow CM’s called them all out on the same concerns?) Gonzales attacked the credibility of the accuser just as you would expect a good lawyer would.  Check yourself, you are a Council Member now, not a lawyer.  Don’t attack people who take time out of their day to be involved in the process!

    Was it when Herbold and Gonzales covered the microphone and shared some smirks and quiet comments back and fourth to each other, Lisa showing Gonzales texts from her phone while Pete Spaulding was giving his closing remarks about the meeting and was clearly fully excepting the CM’s to stay engaged and hear the last 3 minutes of the meeting. Some of the most disrespectful behavior I have seen!!!

    This was nothing more than marking off a checkbox for them so they can say they listened. I thank the Chamber for putting this on.  It was great to see how this is a done deal and nothing that was said was going to be listened to.  We as a city have the least dynamic city leadership and these two West Seattle residents (used that term lightly, more on that later) are faking their way through this issue.

    I whole heartily believe they should stop what they are doing and wait for the county wide One Table recommendations come out before ramming this through.

    They have a final vote schedule for May 14th but they haven’t even written the legislation yet!!! WTH???

    • My two cents ... April 19, 2018 (6:31 pm)

      thank you for you insight – further proof that Herbold (and Gonzales) are only in it to grab a headline and make it “appear” as if they care about about the needs/concerns/issues that face 90% of the citizens that they “represent”.

  • unconvinced April 19, 2018 (5:39 pm)

    I do not have faith in our city counsel to not burn up the ‘budget’ while talking the issue to death . 

    Years go by and no action or no effect and yet ‘budgeting’ – that sucking sound coming out of my purse – continues unabated.

    It cannot be easy to stand in front of your neighbors in disagreement on every issue as your job.

    The only means to improve performance is the 50/50 chance when the vote puts all of the current representatives out of office.

    ,,,,and then we start again. It’s almost demoralizing.

  • The King April 19, 2018 (6:24 pm)

    City officials have made the problem worse with our hundreds of millions. Now they want to spend more of other people’s money. I believe they deep down can’t stand the thought of privately owned business, they believe it should be public. Crazy

  • gh April 19, 2018 (6:44 pm)

    Yet another stupid idea by city leaders….what else is new?

  • Concerned April 19, 2018 (7:00 pm)


    Notice that the task force wants pot shops exempt from this tax and that one of the head of the task force owns a chain of pot shops. 

    This city is so crooked

  • 98126res April 19, 2018 (7:11 pm)

    They are socialists in sheep’s clothing!   They seem to want people to work hard and make money, then hand it over to the government to redistribute.   Wow.

  • TJ April 19, 2018 (8:24 pm)

    I’m 46, lived in West Seattle whole life. Not sure what the end game goal is with these progressives and these unsustainable taxes. This will collapse when the economy turns. Give me 4 years. In 2 I will be completely liquid. 2 more and I will be set and insulated from a collapse. Hope Amazon leaves, Boeing, tech industry collapses. There are cracks in these now. There is no bailouts coming the next time around, unlike before in 2009.

    • heartless April 19, 2018 (8:37 pm)

      Wait, you want the economy to collapse?  So you don’t have to pay so much in taxes?

      Really?  And you’re 46?  Grow up.  

      • Eric1 April 19, 2018 (11:09 pm)

        I don’t think TJ wishes for a national economic crash, he is just predicting a local one. Amazon’s warning shot about HQ #2 has apparently had little effect on the Seattle government (I would be asking how i can help facilitate expansion, not how do I wring more money out of a positive tax source to give to give to a negative one). I think his point is that Seattle leadership is definitely trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg so he is getting prepared. 


        I wouldn’t liquidate now because I think it will take a little longer to accumulate enough taxes to strangle the goose.  But hey, check back in 2 to 4 years.  TJ may be the one laughing.

        • to be fair April 20, 2018 (7:39 am)

          He did write “Hope Amazon leaves, Boeing, tech industry collapses.”  That seems a bit stronger than just “predicting” a collapse.

          That aside, I do worry about Seattle taking Amazon for granted–Seattle is still a small city and Amazon is just so huge it doesn’t bode well for longterm stability. 

    • Peter April 20, 2018 (9:58 am)

      Wow. Hoping for an economic collapse and the failure of our major employers takes a truly sick and malevolent mind.

  • Dan April 19, 2018 (8:54 pm)

    The last five years have seen huge increases in real estate values which means huge increases in tax revenue, double digits easily. Where is this huge influx of tax revenue going?  It was not in the budget. No one predicted it. It’s a windfall. So why is government still asking for more?

    • gatewood April 19, 2018 (9:57 pm)

      Population grew by 11%

      City budget grew by 28%

      Increase in tax revenue 35% (driven by property, building and levies)

      We have added 1.4 billion over the last 6 years in spending to the city budget!!! from a 4 billion budget to now a 5.4 billion.  I am not sure we got our monies worth!

      • KT April 20, 2018 (8:44 am)

        Now that says a lot!

      • 98126res April 20, 2018 (10:18 am)

        Can they be impeached?

        This is a result of dumb jungle primaries – we get left and further left candidates.

        No healthy debate, fiscal responsibility or conservative views.

        • WSB April 20, 2018 (10:52 am)

          There was quite a variety of candidates for Position 1 in 2015 (not even counting the ones who were in and out before the primary). We interviewed and spotlighted them all. If you need a refresher, the final list of 9 pre-primary candidates and their voter’s guide statements are still up at http://www2.seattle.gov/ethics/vg/20150804.asp

        • 98126res April 20, 2018 (7:28 pm)

          Thank you for the link.  I don’t remember any of them from the primary, except the two who ultimately ran against each other in the election.  The jungle primary has eliminated the two party election system.  With mostly liberals voices and media in town, conservative point of views are little heard or seen.  The mayoral special election lead up was liberals debating from nearly the same stance, with no conservative perspectives to keep them real.

      • Windfall April 20, 2018 (10:21 am)

        Gatewood, where can I find these stats you mentioned?

  • fiz April 19, 2018 (9:15 pm)

    Please do not vote either of them back into office!

  • Wseattlite April 19, 2018 (10:12 pm)

    I quickly grew alarmed as I was reading the article. Then I saw the references to the offensive name of the bill, and the confusion that is apparently beyond comprehension on whether or not taxing jobs will affect the number of jobs available. At that point I realized I had been had, and that it was all a big joke. You got me City Councel’. Good one. 

  • Huck April 19, 2018 (11:02 pm)

    Vote these clueless idiots out. It’s our only hope. 

    • WSB April 19, 2018 (11:14 pm)

      People here only have the opportunity to vote in one council race any time soonish: If CM Herbold runs for re-election, she will be on the West Seattle/South Park ballot in the second half of next year, as will candidates in the other 6 districts, respectively. CM González was re-elected citywide last year, to a four-year term, so she (and the other citywide CM, Teresa Mosqueda) will not go before voters again until 2021.

  • Alki April 20, 2018 (6:31 am)

    Did anyone ask the council people if 150 mil or 75 mil will clear the homeless camps and we’re done with it?  I mean, are we clear around underpasses and stuff?  I guarantee we would have same homeless camps everywhere after 150 mil and Amazon gone.. 

    • The Truth April 21, 2018 (12:40 am)

      They were clear that they felt this was just a start and this money would make a dent but not solve the problem!

  • Orca April 20, 2018 (6:47 am)

    Why do the people of Seattle continue to elect people with little or no experience and common sense?

    Every other area in the country is falling all over themselves giving tax breaks to lure employers.  These fools are focused on punishing employers.  

    I am embarrassed for Seattle when talking with visitors.  

    • Mr. J April 20, 2018 (1:04 pm)

      Do you know their background? Pretty confident they’re qualified – look up WSB past coverage. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean they don’t have common sense, I think the plan is viable but they really need to work out the details first – worth noting is I own a small business. 

      I’m not sure what you’re referring to about falling over to give businesses tax breaks, where? I’m sure some cities that are fighting for survival would do this, but Seattle isn’t one. Yes, we have problems that need to be addressed and getting people housing is a big priority. Get them off the streets, get them help if needed, job training. The cost of doing nothing is probably smaller, but I’d rather help people then pay cops/etc to sweep encampments and have distressed people over the city. 

  • newnative April 20, 2018 (7:22 am)

    Why is “skin in the game tax” considered offensive? 

    • The King April 20, 2018 (9:20 am)

      I was wondering the same thing….they should have just called it the Ponzi Tax 

    • heartless April 20, 2018 (9:22 am)

      I think they mean “head tax” is offensive?  Unsure of the specifics but I think it was an anti-Chinese policy?  

      As far as I know “skin in the game” isn’t considered offensive (yet).

      • WSB April 20, 2018 (9:47 am)

        As explained in the story: Herbold said they understood that the *term* “skin in the game” was offensive to businesspeople because it suggested they did not already have “skin in the game” (were making contributions). Examples (as we have learned from covering so many small businesses and from being a very small business ourselves): Many small businesses contribute so much more, proportionately, to local nonprofits, schools, youth sports, events … via sponsorships, via direct cash and/or services and/or product donations (for fundraiser auctions, etc.) … and that’s not just community-enhancing; in many cases the donations directly relate to helping homeless/low-income people via nonprofits, locally including WestSide Baby, West Seattle and White Center Food Banks, West Seattle Helpline … look at the lists of sponsors for their events and note all the local independent businesses. They *have* “skin in the game” already. Smaller local nonprofits are sustained by that “skin.” – TR

        • newnative April 20, 2018 (4:01 pm)

          Thanks for the explanation. I read the story and didn’t see that in there. 

  • Rick April 20, 2018 (7:56 am)

     I live on a budget everyday, Why can’t the local and State Gov. do the same. Very frustrated with how they find different ways to get our money.  Toll the new tunnel, toll driving anywhere in Seattle, tax us more and more for the illegal city campers.  They need to find ways to stick to their budget just like the average resident.  Is that asking too much.

  • ExileGuy April 20, 2018 (8:33 am)

    A jobs tax was a stupid idea when Nick Licata snuck it into law years ago. It was wisely repealed by by his more sensible colleagues. Sadly, the current roster of clowns on council lack the fortitude and common sense of their predecessors and this crap legislation will move forward. Shame on Herbold and Gonzales for sponsoring this. Shame on Herbold and Gonzales for taking recommendations from a group of self-interested parties who will ultimately receive your money via their back room deals and padded contracts for services. Shame on Herbold and Gonzales for perpetually demonizing our business community (no skin in the game – what a slap). Shame. Get them out of office. 

    • CandrewB April 20, 2018 (9:35 am)

      I would also add small business owners not only have skin, but usually their entire bodies in “the game.” The ones risking nothing are the bureaucrats and the homeless. To assume otherwise proves how clueless, privileged  and sheltered they are.

    • mcgowan April 20, 2018 (11:07 am)

      If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
      If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
      If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
      If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

      The new Seattle

  • CandrewB April 20, 2018 (8:58 am)

     The greatest threat to the continued prosperity of the region is the current Seattle City Council.

  • MJ April 20, 2018 (9:00 am)

    I wish my income had grown 28% in the last few years.  If it had I would be putting money aside for a rainy day not growing expenses.  

    Property taxes, license fees and business taxes keep going up, enough already.

    • Mr J April 20, 2018 (2:24 pm)

      The City can’t do much else other than tax property or sales, that’s a State issue, as Lisa mentioned at the meeting.  License fees was not the City, but the voters so direct your anger at those of us who want mass transit. I’m not sure what business taxes you refer to, but its not the first time. As a small business owner too, what city taxes are you referring to?

      • CandrewB April 20, 2018 (3:49 pm)

        The city has a whole host of fees they are collecting beyond taxes. Ever build anything here? I am in finance at what is considered a major institution and bills from the city for this permit or that would make your head spin.

        • Gatewood April 20, 2018 (4:37 pm)

          Business License was $110,  last year depending on sales volume were $110, $488 or 1k.  That’s a hell of a jump.

          B&O was increased for certain sectors to pay for more police.  Just two name two off the top of my head.

  • tm7302 April 20, 2018 (9:13 am)


    Sugary drink tax = $15 million/year (King5)

    Income tax for high-income residents = $140 million/year (Komo News)

    New education levy =  $636.5 million over 7/years (Seattle Times)

    Employment head tax = $75 million/year (WSB)

    The proposed and recent taxes (oops forgot about the car tab tax, what else am I missing?) are extremely troubling to me considering the City and the Council haven’t fixed anything with the tax money already received.  Tax and spend comes to mind.  Granted, many of the problems facing Seattle are intangible where it is difficult to measure success, unless that success is feeling good.

    Seattle is raking in billions of tax revenue at the moment with not much to show for it.  I believe one of the previous commenters above mentioned… What happens when another city offers a better deal to Amazon?  What happens if there is a down turn in the economy and property tax revenue stagnates or falls?  Imagine the havoc.

    Are the council members working for you?  Is it time to vote them out?  To get elected, Kshama Sawant said she was only going to keep $40,000 of her annual salary and donate the rest.  I heard she bought a house in Leschi.  Is she keeping that salary now?  

    Better now…


  • Peter April 20, 2018 (10:24 am)

    The city is not actually addressing the root of the problem. The homeless crisis is an offshoot of the housing crisis. The city has made if nearly impossible to build small studio or efficiency apartments, and our overly restrictive zoning and land use laws compound the problem by restricting what type of housing can be built and where. Add to that the many fees and permits required to build housing and we have a perfect storm of city policies that artificially restrict housing construction which forces prices up, and consequently drives more people into homelessness. This tax may help some people out of homelessness, but allowing the free market to meet the demand for housing would help many more.

  • scubafrog April 20, 2018 (10:29 am)

    That’s really sad to see come from Lisa.  I had some hope for her as the only decent City Council person.

    I hope the city’s smart enough to vote them all out, and start over.  What a mess.

  • dsa April 20, 2018 (10:41 am)

    The council keeps punishing business every way it can.  Is it any surprise Micky D’s is installing kiosks?

  • Ted April 20, 2018 (10:57 am)

    There is one solution here. Make the council members understand they will be voted out. Period.

    Folks need to band together and vote out members who are not balancing their checkbooks like we all need to do.

    When times get tuff for us regular citizens we all need to figure out how to dig deeper or buy cheaper to accomplish the same goals.

    • 98126res April 23, 2018 (8:33 am)

      Thanks Ted!  I am curious where the nearest examples are of cities that DO balance their budget without raising taxes or starting brand new ones!  These are the responsible cities that Seattle needs to model.

  • Vanessa April 20, 2018 (11:25 am)

    Taxes, taxes and more taxes.  Feeling like a turnip here.  

    When if ever, will the B & O taxes get a new restructuring and categorizing? THAT is a whole other issue that gets my blood boiling.

  • WSB April 20, 2018 (12:37 pm)

    Update for those interested: The draft legislation is now public. We’ll write a separate story, but here’s the announcement from the city website:


    (It includes direct links to the proposed legislation and “spending plan.” I’m reading the fine print currently. Again, as noted in the story, the first public hearing is Monday night, downtown. Anyone who’s going, consider letting us know – we will likely cover it in person – editor@westseattleblog.com)

  • Citizen Sane April 20, 2018 (12:49 pm)

    All this is happening because the City Council lives in a bubble. They come out to shill for votes every few years, but spend the rest of their time at City Hall surrounded by a phalanx-like coterie of City Hall courtiers. These professional supplicants include the big players of the ‘Homeless-Industrial Complex’ (see: SHARE/WHEEL and LIHI), and various self-righteous SJW non-profs. They fill the public meetings with their stooges to give the impression that the CMs constituencies all want more taxes and ‘save the world’ initiatives.

    The usual endgame for a CM is to establish enough SJW ‘cred’ to ease into a cushy six-figure job in one of the City’s (taxpayer funded) non-profs, or to hang a shingle as a highly-paid ‘consultant’.

    In any case, the taxpayer takes it in the shorts, and will continue to do so until they wise up and start electing experienced leaders and not starry-eyed ‘activists’. We need a CM that is less interested in saving the World, and more interested in making a city that works.

    • WSB April 20, 2018 (12:55 pm)

      Which ex-councilmembers are working at cushy nonprofit jobs? So far semi-recent ex-councilmembers in general that I can recall are:
      Tim Burgess
      Tom Rasmussen
      Jean Godden
      Nick Licata
      Peter Steinbrueck
      Sally Clark

      But I don’t think any of them meet that description. (Steinbrueck is now an elected Seattle port commissioner but did have a previous city consulting contract – about sustainability, not social justice.) What/who am I missing?

      • CandrewB April 20, 2018 (3:53 pm)

         Clark is a director at the UW. Not sure the official title but is often referred to as the “neighborhood liaison” for the UW.

        • WSB April 20, 2018 (3:58 pm)

          Yes, but that’s not in the category to which Boating was referring.

    • Citizen Sane April 20, 2018 (3:34 pm)

      There is also a thinly-disguised hubris with our Dist. 1 representative. CM Herbold clearly views the average taxpaying citizen as a greedy, shortsighted rube who isn’t sufficiently ‘enlightened’ like she is. To her and much of the rest of the Council, we are simply viewed as simple children, who should just STFU, and pay more and more taxes to atone for our lives of ‘privilege’. 

      • Flimflam April 20, 2018 (5:15 pm)

        Agree completely.

  • rico April 20, 2018 (1:32 pm)

    I would like to send a thank you to the business owners who took time to speak about this issue.  The business owners views in my observations matches those of the majority of the constituents.

    It is too bad the politicians ignore the wishes of a majority of their constituents, presumably to implement legislation that makes them “feel good” about solving a humanitarian issue, even when such spending has not solved anything, except how to spend our money.  

    The results speak for themselves (increased problems from those choosing to live outside) the citizens are beginning to understand, why not the politicians.  

    Current policies enable and worsen the situation.

    • CatLady April 22, 2018 (7:10 am)

      “Increased problems from those choosing to live outside” is a weird way of saying “our housing situation is so dire that people are literally dying while they wait for a place to live.”

      Are there certain houseless people who don’t want to live indoors? Sure, that’s probably the case with any homeless population. But the vast majority of people want a roof over their head. And no – shelters are not viable for everyone, for multiple reasons.

      The casualness with which you can brush off people’s hard life circumstances (“they’re just choosing to be out there!”) is appalling. 

  • The Truth April 20, 2018 (2:29 pm)

    You have to admit the council is good at hiding their moves.  Don’t want additional press around a disputed piece of legislation?  Release it at noon on a Friday, during a well media covered, preplanned school walkout!  

  • Thomas Wood April 20, 2018 (3:49 pm)

    So the city thinks that they are going to take drug addicts alcoholics and people with mental problems off the streets    and put them into housing.No job and think this is going to work.Who is going to monitor these people.Can you imagine  what these units will look like after a short time. What needs to happen is the legislature has to change the law on involuntary incarceration. The city with the funds they have right now could start a very basic jobs program.They could start by cleaning up their own garbage.Why do we have to pay for teams to come around and pick up after them.We can see what is happening right now in the low barrier camps.Crime is up in the area ,it spills out onto the street on a daily basis.We need to limit the power of the council to impose these taxes on us.

  • Ms. Sparkles April 20, 2018 (4:35 pm)

    I don’t own a business, but I would be willing to pay $200 a head for each member of my family ($800) every year if it would GUARANTEE I never am hit up by, have to step over or smell a homeless person in the city limits again.

    I seriously wouldn’t mind paying more if I felt the funds were well used…. but they aren’t.  I wish the city would have a more balanced approach; help to those who will accept it and improve their situations, and a bus ticket out of town to anyone who refuses help or can’t even live by the most basic rules. 

    • scubafrog April 20, 2018 (4:55 pm)

      You sound compassionate and humane (dripping sarcasm).

      How’s Drumpft working for you?

    • to be fair April 20, 2018 (5:02 pm)

      Yeah, it sounds like what you want is a gated community some place not in a city.

    • CatLady April 22, 2018 (7:17 am)

      I am so embarrassed to live in the same city, and more specifically, the same part of the city as you. I moved up here from San Francisco, and your thinking is exactly the same as that of the uber-rich tech bros. You have lost your humanity, and instead replaced it with a soulless worship of cash.

      Those homeless people who you have to “smell” and “step over” are HUMAN BEINGS. They have thoughts and hopes and feelings just like you and me. They are not trash to be moved out of your way.

      Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you? 

  • Steve April 20, 2018 (8:26 pm)

    Don’t worry Santwant is an “economics professor” and will spend this money wisely, responsibly, and fiscally prudent!

  • Plf April 20, 2018 (8:57 pm)

    Does this proposal exempt non profits example uw medicine which has a profit arm, gates foundation, Swedish medical

    • WSB April 20, 2018 (9:03 pm)

      The news release says:

      The Progressive Tax on Business will:

      Exempt Seattle’s small and medium-sized businesses, only applying to those with at least $20 million or more annually in taxable gross receipts as measured under the City’s existing Business & Occupation tax;
      Applies only to the City’s approximately 500 largest businesses (or approximately 3% of Seattle’s business owners);
      Large businesses included will pay just about a quarter ($0.26) per hour per employee working in Seattle;
      All nonprofit businesses in Seattle are exempt;
      The employee hours tax will be replaced by a business payroll tax on January 1, 2021;
      For those same approximately 500 largest businesses, the replacement business payroll tax will be calculated as 0.7 percent of all payroll related to work done in Seattle.

      For the specifics, see the actual legislation

      which lists a specific section of the Seattle Municipal Code for the definition of “nonprofit.”

  • Mike April 20, 2018 (10:28 pm)

    What’s next, the shoulders tax? The knees and toes fee? 

    When did our reps stop representing us? Did anyone elect them to extract more dollars, because as I recall, they didn’t run on that. Yet, here we are. 

  • Wseattleite April 21, 2018 (4:04 am)

    City citizens,  i am sorry to say that I have seen behind the curtain at what our elected leaders spend their time on.  It is not discussions about what legal citizens voted them into office for or what the citizens interests are. The bulk of time is spent in discussions about how to sell their ideas to the public through clever marketing, and a bit of phsycology to make you all stay placated   I have been sickened to my core  to see where real effort and has been given.  Once the doors close, you can laugh at the public comments because by then they have an agenda to fill a purpose and they laugh at ideas not in scope of their own.   Or maybe laugh at whatever the Council laughs at on break  either way, I am disgusted  

  • Rick April 21, 2018 (10:01 am)

    Love the analogy. Seattle,the city “behind the curtain”. Would be funny if it weren’t so true. Folks, the tide is turning.  And no, I don’t mean Tide pods! But that would explain a few things. Along with condom snorting leaders of the future.

  • artsea April 22, 2018 (10:53 am)

    How about just taxing the developers for each “unaffordable” apartment unit they are putting up all around us almost weekly?

  • TiredofGovernmentGreed April 22, 2018 (5:45 pm)

    In addition to enjoying an unbelievable wealth from our rising property taxes (mine is up 70%+ in 4 years) and now planning a tax on jobs, please also note that our city council is looking at a “congestion” tax on cars that are driven through downtown.  Such a tax would in the $10-$15 a day range if our city council copies the practice of other cities.

    All this tax revenue with greed for more, yet no successful solutions to problems, decaying infrastructure, and poor urban planning.  Please vote our Mayor and City Council members out of office as soon as possible.

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