Amazon makes vague threat after Seattle passes new "head tax"

Seattle approves business tax for homelessness

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a tax on big businesses to help alleviate the city's growing homelessness problem and lack of affordable housing.

Amazon said it was "disappointed" by the outcome of the vote and raised questions about its future growth in the city. After deliberations between the Council, Mayor's office, and the business community, a leaner, $275-per-employee bill that sunsets in five years was eventually passed.

The Vice President of Amazon, Drew Herdener, also said in a statement that, "The city does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending efficiency problem". Seattle reportedly has the third-largest concentration of homeless people in the United States.

"The City of Seattle has an obligation to take care of those people who are suffering on our city's streets", Gonzalez said prior to Monday's vote. So unless the state's Attorney General really does start charging companies with felonies for leaving Seattle, this tax is going to slow the growth of jobs in the city.

In a bid to appease Amazon and other big local employers - such as Starbucks - that opposed the tax measure, council members cut the proposed per-worker levy almost by half before voting Monday.

The state Legislature may have to deal with Seattle's new head tax on businesses next session, according to Senator Mark Schoesler. She cautioned leaders eyeing the company's arrival to their cities and told them that the shift may cause problems like this later down the road.

They'll be required to pay 275 dollars per employee per year for aid measures, including affordable housing and emergency shelters.

The head-tax debate has been extremely divisive, with opposition questioning the need for more revenue for housing and homeless services, saying the city should do a better job of spending the funds it already has.

The tax is expected to raise between $45m and $49m a year, of which about $10m would come from Amazon. The move by the world's largest online retailer, owned by billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, put in question more than 7,000 new jobs.

Over 100 Seattle-area businesses, including Alaska Airlines, Expedia and Tableau, have spoken out against the head tax.

Even $75 million a year would not have been adequate, she said.

There will also be $14.6 million in workforce stability funding over five years, providing a 4 percent raise for direct service homeless contracts.

Seattle is battling skyrocketing housing prices and homelessness.

About 3 percent of Seattle businesses will be affected, according to the council.

Median rents have doubled since 2010, according to real estate firm Zillow, and the area has the third highest homeless population in the nation, according to US government statistics. On Friday, the most enthusiastic comment Johnson managed to muster about Durkan's proposal was that it "allows for us to continue that pay-as-you-go process that has been a hallmark of most of the affordable housing investments that we've made as a city".

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