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Seattle council does U-turn on head tax

By John Engber, Director, Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle

The Seattle City Council voted 7 to 2 on Tuesday to repeal the Head Tax (or Employee Hours Tax), just under a month after passing the tax by a 9-0 vote. The Council passed the tax on May 14 over the vocal opposition of a broad cross-section of the public.

The Washington Retail Association opposed passage of the Head Tax and quickly donated to the campaign created to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal the Head Tax. That campaign collected more than 45,000 signatures, well in excess of the 17,700 valid signatures required to place the initiative on the ballot. Business opposition rested on several concerns including imposing costs that would discourage hiring, raise prices and make Seattle less competitive in recruiting new companies.

The success of the signature drive, coupled with strong polling for the repeal, led the City Council to repeal the 29-day old tax.

Seattle has a staggering homelessness problem. It must be addressed, and Seattle city government is spending about $90 million on homelessness in 2018. But this is not a problem unique to Seattle. We commend the One Table process that brings together King County, Seattle, suburban cities, service providers, business, philanthropy and others to address homelessness on a county-wide basis.

“A tax on jobs was never the right solution to this problem. We commend the Mayor and majority of the City Council for moving to repeal this tax,” stated RenĂ©e Sunde, President and CEO of the Washington Retail Association.

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