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Seattle City Council considering controversial head tax proposal again

The Progressive Revenue Task Force recommended the City of Seattle pass legislation this year to generate $150 million per year in new progressive revenue, including $75 million dollars from an Employee Hours Tax or “head” tax. Part of the money generated would go towards affordable housing programs and to fight the homeless crisis. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - The Seattle City Council is reintroducing a controversial head tax proposal that would impose an employee head tax on businesses.

A similar measure failed last year, but city leaders are determined to bring it back.

The Progressive Revenue Task Force recommended the City of Seattle pass legislation this year to generate $150 million per year in new progressive revenue, including $75 million from an Employee Hours Tax or “head” tax.

The task force recommended the city develop the head tax on businesses to raise revenue to fight the homeless crisis and housing shortage.

The proposal has a range of tax options, based on employer size and type, plus a "skin in the game fee" for small businesses.

The task force recommends the city establish the head tax to go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

There's an urgency from city leaders to pass the head tax by this May, but 300 furious business owners sent a letter to the city council saying the proposal would undermine their livelihoods.

“That stresses me out every single night and to know that the city council is adding more hurdles to making sure I can actually go to sleep every night is really frustrating,” said Peel and Press owner Dan Austin, who was one of the business owners who signed the letter.

Austin said recommendations like this head tax are the reasons why he opened his other business outside Seattle.

“It’s just another papercut on the amount of taxes that are slowly taking us down. There’s just been increase after, increase, after increase,” said Austin.

Wednesday evening Seattle’s city council chambers were packed with supporters of the proposal.

The task force admits the proposed amount won't solve the entire housing crisis, but will be a solid start to solving the problem through affordable housing programs.

“We have to go big or go home,” said Progressive Revenue Task Force member Lisa Daugaard. “We must make a discernible impact on the situation and the number of people living in public and experiencing homelessness. Proposals that fumble around and don’t achieve that mark should not be supported.”

The task force t also proposes new taxes which include CEO and estate taxes.

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