Amazon, Microsoft support business tax to address housing

SEATTLE (AP) — Major Seattle-area companies say they are willing to be taxed to help address regional challenges, such as affordable housing and public safety.

KUOW reports the companies -- including Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Alaska Airlines – signed a statement released Tuesday, saying: “We think the most high impact way to contribute to meet those needs is in the form of a new business tax."

The statement comes as state lawmakers consider a bill that would allow King County to tax large businesses with high earners to help address homelessness in the region.

In the statement, the eleven employers stop short of supporting the proposed measure. Instead, the statement says any tax should be “imposed at a reasonable level with accountability for results in homelessness and affordable housing.”

The bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, and others comes after the Seattle City Council in 2018 repealed a similar tax on large companies it had just passed that was designed to bring in money to address homelessness issues.

Seattle's so-called head tax would have charged companies about $275 per full-time worker each year for affordable housing and homeless services. It targeted nearly 600 businesses making at least $20 million in gross revenue. The Council reversed itself after objections from businesses – including Amazon – and some labor unions.

The new House bill includes exemptions for certain businesses, such as those with fewer than 50 employees.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan recently signed an agreement that would designate the agency to coordinate the county and city response to homelessness. It would begin next year with $130 million in funding from the county and the city.