Seattle is booming economically, and we have a terrible problem with homelessness. The other day I walked by an upscale apartment building in Belltown. Young techies were leaving on their way to work, literally stepping over three people in filthy sleeping bags who’d taken up residence in the doorway and were there overnight.
The city instituted what was called a “head tax”, a per employee tax on businesses grossing over 20M annually, the proceeds to be used to fund solutions to the homeless problem. Almost as soon as the tax was passed by City Council, and uproar ensued and petitions were circulated to roll back the “job killing tax.” Sure enough, City Council folded.
“Less than a month after it passed unanimously, the $275-per-employee tax on businesses grossing more than $20 million annually is set to be undone by the Seattle City Council. On Monday, Council President Bruce Harrell announced that he is sponsoring legislation to repeal the contentious tax estimated to generate $47 million annually for homelessness services, emergency shelters, and affordable housing that is poised to take effect in January 2019. Harrell expects the council to vote on the repeal legislation during a special council meeting on Tuesday at noon. A joint statement in support of the legislation released by Mayor Jenny Durkan and seven councilmembers on Monday indicates that the measure has enough votes to pass, casting uncertainty on the source of additional funding needed to address the city’s rampant homelessness crisis.”
I have really mixed feelings about this one. It’s not clear where money will come from to address the plight of homeless people living on our streets. But our large employers are saying it’s not coming from them.
We want things as a society: money for infrastructure, for emergencies like Hurricane Sandy, for health care, for the homeless. But we apparently also want tax cuts for the rich, which means the federal government isn’t going to fund those common goods. Employers aren’t either.
Not clear where we go from here.