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Conflicting explanations behind Seattle's vote to repeal big business tax

A major reversal is on deck at Seattle City Council chambers on Tuesday. A vote to repeal the controversial tax on big business is expected, after councilmembers faced an aggressive pushback and a referendum. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - A major reversal is on deck at Seattle City Council chambers on Tuesday. A vote to repeal the controversial tax on big business is expected, after councilmembers faced an aggressive pushback and a referendum.

Business leaders said the council finally listened to reason in calling for the vote.

“Voters have been speaking out loud and clear over the past several weeks across the city of Seattle that they think this is bad public policy. So, I’m glad that it looks like the council is going to appeal it,” said Jon Scholes, President & CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

However, tax supporters insist the repeal campaign relied on misinformation.

“We were out there trying to make sure that people got the facts before signing, but their signature gatherers were out there saying some very misleading and false things,” said Katie Wilson with the Transit Riders Union, one of the main proponents of the employee hours tax.

Uwajimaya CEO Denise Moriguchi disagrees. She said the repeal campaign took off because people are fed up seeing tax dollars poured into programs with uncertain results.

“It doesn't seem like things are getting better, and so it's tough and you just wonder how's that money being spent,” Moriguchi said.

“We need a more effective strategy. It needs to be a countywide and regional strategy. This is not just a Seattle issue. It’s really an issue that we’re facing across King County,” Scholes added.

If the big business tax is repealed, the path to address the city's growing homeless crisis remains a looming question.

“We need to actually sit down and ask ok what are solutions, what are metrics, what are strategies that will work, and work together on it," Moriguchi said.

“I think that it shouldn’t have been a polarizing issue because if homelessness gets worse, the economy is going to be even more impacted,” said Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute. “I think it’s very important that the city council and the county council get together and find alternative funding sources.”

However, head tax supporters say big business was invited to participate when plans were being drafted but declined at the time.

“Great that they are willing to have those conversations now and I look forward to seeing what they come up with,” Wilson said.

POLL: Should the city council repeal the tax without a replacement plan? Answer the poll below or click here.



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