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Amazon and Starbucks blast Seattle council's controversial new homeless tax


Starbucks and Amazon have come out swinging against a new tax in Seattle that would see large corporations pay $275 in tax for every employee.

Any firm earning more than $20 million a year will be asked to pay a head tax, which will raise up to about $48million to help battle the city’s homelessness problem.

Amazon, which employs about 45,000 people in Seattle, will shoulder most of the burden – and they’re not happy about it, instead claiming the city is anti-business and has a spending efficiency problem. 

Amazon has lashed out at Seattle City Council after a controversial new tax bill passed on Monday

Amazon has lashed out at Seattle City Council after a controversial new tax bill passed on Monday

The bill will see companies making more than $20million pay a yearly tax of $275 per employee in Seattle, with the money used to help the city's homeless (stock image)

The bill will see companies making more than $20million pay a yearly tax of $275 per employee in Seattle, with the money used to help the city’s homeless (stock image)

A spokesman for Starbucks, which will be one of the worst hit companies, said the city's spending priorities were skewed 

A spokesman for Starbucks, which will be one of the worst hit companies, said the city’s spending priorities were skewed 

Amazon vice president Drew Herdener said the company was ‘disappointed’, but had recommenced building a new 18-storey building. 

‘We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here,’ he said in a statement. 

‘City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8B in 2010 to $4.2B in 2017, and they will be even higher in 2018. This revenue increase far outpaces the Seattle population increase over the same time period. 

‘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.’

The bill was hotly contested, with many in support of having large companies, who are heavily blamed for the city’s wealth disparity, help fix Seattle’s issues

But Amazon said the city was reckless with its spending and could not be trusted with the estimated $48million the tax would bring in

But Amazon said the city was reckless with its spending and could not be trusted with the estimated $48million the tax would bring in

Starbucks was equally as angry, and agreed the City needed to change its priorities or it could not be trusted with so much money.

John Kelly, Starbucks’ senior vice president of global public affairs, said the Council had made poor spending decisions in the past at the expense of the city’s most vulnerable.

‘This City continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside,’ Kelly said. ‘If they cannot provide a warm meal and safe bed to a 5-year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction.

‘This City pays more attention to the desires of the owners of illegally parked RVs than families seeking emergency shelter.’

In January, the Seattle Times reported there were 11,643 homeless people in the city. Last year alone, $68million was spent on trying to help those people.   

In January, there were 11,643 people homeless throughout Seattle (stock image)

In January, there were 11,643 people homeless throughout Seattle (stock image)

The city has the third-largest number of homeless people anywhere in the US, with 169 people dying out on the streets in 2017.

The city declared a state of emergency over homelessness in 2015.

Rising house prices driven by Seattle’s rapid economic boom has exacerbated the problem, with many blaming large firms for rising inequality.

City coffers are expected to receive around $48million per year under the new proposal, down from $80million under the original.

Councillors say they plan to spend two thirds of the new money on affordable housing, building 591 units over the course of five years, and the other third on emergency shelters, trash pickup, and raises for service workers.

The city spent $68million in 2017 alone trying to help eradicate the problem (stock image)

The city spent $68million in 2017 alone trying to help eradicate the problem (stock image)

Overall, around three percent of Seattle businesses will be hit by the tax, which will last for five years before another vote is held on whether to renew it. 

While Mayor Jenny Durkan is delighted the vote passed City Hall, she told KOMO News on Monday she knew it would not solve the crisis entirely.

 ‘No one is saying that this will solve everything, but it will make a meaningful difference,’ she said.

‘This legislation will help us address our homelessness crisis without jeopardizing critical jobs. 

‘Because this ordinance represents a true shared solution, and because it lifts up those who have been left behind while also ensuring accountability and transparency, I plan to sign this legislation into law.’

The tax will last five years before it is up for a vote again, and Mayor Jenny Durkan says it will make a 'meaningful difference'

The tax will last five years before it is up for a vote again, and Mayor Jenny Durkan says it will make a ‘meaningful difference’



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