The Seattle City Council voted unanimously this week — 9-to-0 — to pass a tax that will charge businesses $275 per-employee per year, instead of the $540 per employee figure initially proposed.
They called it a “compromise.”
The new tax is expected to collect about $48 million a year. The bulk of the money — supposedly — will go toward new affordable housing units. The rest will be spent on more immediate needs, such as rental subsidies and shelter beds.
In late 2015, then-Mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency and directed millions toward the homelessness crisis.
2015 was also the end of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. King County officials estimate that a billion dollars or more was spent to help the homeless from 2005 to 2015.
And the problem has only gotten worse.
Matt Dubin, a Seattle attorney who is running to be a state lawmaker because of the homeless crisis, told the Seattle City Council on May 14, “$200 million was spent in King County last year, $17,000 for every man, woman, and child, and the problem got worse.”
Dubin also said, “We spend more per capita on homelessness than almost any large city in the country and yet we are the third worst.”
Amazon Vice President Drew Herdener said, “The city does not have a revenue problem — it has a spending efficiency problem. We are highly uncertain whether the city council’s anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better.”
Herdener went on to say that the tax “forces us to question our growth here.”
The new tax will affect about 3 percent of the city’s business community, according to figures released by the city council. All major companies in Seattle grossing more than $20 million will each be charged $275 per full-time employee every year.
It’s trendy nowadays to target the top producers — to force them to pay for the rest of society. But this isn’t even about the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.
How about holding your city council members accountable? Demand a full accounting of where every penny goes. Most of the money earmarked for the homeless goes to nonprofits — and those nonprofits also need to provide a full account of where the money goes.
Our theory is this: homelessness is a business. In order for a business to stay in business, it must have clients (in this case, the homeless).
And right now, business is booming.