SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council has decided to table deliberations during the coronavirus pandemic for the amended payroll tax legislation that seeks to tax big businesses like Amazon.
Seattle City Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez explained the decision in a memo this week, citing Governor Jay Inslee's proclamation that prevents agencies from meeting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic to limit the spread of the virus.
Under the proclamation, state and local agencies are prohibited from meeting in person and from taking action unless those matters are necessary and routine matters or are necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The proposed payroll tax legislation, co-sponsored by Seattle City Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant, calls for imposing a 1.3% tax on the city's biggest companies with payrolls of $7 million or more annually, in an attempt to raise $500 million dollars a year for housing and homelessness services.
Earlier this year, Sawant and Morales amended the legislation to include that $200 million in the first year would be used for a local coronavirus recovery plan, and put $500 check in the hands of most people.
Despite that change, Council President Gonzalez said the legislation as a whole still does not meet the criteria to continue deliberations under Gov. Inslee's proclamation.
"I have become increasingly concerned that the substance of this proposal and the facts established in its legislative findings do not meet the high standard necessary to support the conclusion that the package as a whole is either routine and necessary or sufficiently related to COVID-19 and the current public health crisis," wrote President Gonzalez in her memo to fellow city councilors.
The concerns were brought to President Gonzalez by Councilmember Lisa Herbold, according to the memo.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the legislation was strictly geared towards creating more affordable housing and a Green New Deal.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has been critical of the legislation, which some are calling a "Head Tax 2.0."
While Sawant and Morales were originally trying to get the legislation passed by June to help with coronavirus relief, it appears the proposal will go on the back burner, at least while Gov. Inslee's proclamation remains in effect.