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Head tax repeal effort launched by Seattle group

A referendum to repeal the newly imposed head tax for large businesses is gaining ground
Union workers and homeless advocates both filled up the Seattle City Council chambers Wednesday to protest a proposed head tax.

A non-partisan collection of local residents, businesses, and organizations wants to repeal the city's controversial head tax.

The Seattle City Council decision came on Monday to assess a $275-per-employee tax on for-profit businesses that make more than $20 million per year.

The group, No Tax on Jobs, started collecting signatures Friday. The ultimate goal is to get at least 18,000 signatures by June 12 so voters can decide whether or not the tax should be repealed. It would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

"We all care about homelessness and housing affordability, but they should not stifle economic growth," said James Maiocco, an organizer of the group.

The tax, according to Maiocco, cuts job opportunities for recent graduates and makes it harder for many businesses to afford to stay in Seattle. The tax, he said, also hurts restaurants, breweries, and grocery stores.

"The council just signed what they are calling a grand compromise, but it was a grand compromise that involved ten people. It's ten people who literally made a choice for all of Seattle that the only answer to the homeless crisis is to mitigate growth," said Saul Spady, a business owner and the grandson of the founder of Dick's Drive-in in Seattle.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, one of the original sponsors of the proposal, issued this statement in response to the repeal effort:

This was never intended to be an “us versus them” proposal. This was a compromise that exempted small businesses, asking for just 14 cents an hour to help with the biggest humanitarian crisis we’ve ever seen on the streets. It’s good for the health of our community and the health of our economy when we don’t have folks living outside, and we know that the way to get people out of tents is through investing in permanently affordable housing. I remain committed to identifying and implementing progressive solutions, but this five-year plan is a down-payment for Seattle’s share of a regional approach that is needed today. Every day we delay, people die in our streets.

RELATED: 'How is that a compromise?': Iconic Dick's Drive-In slams Seattle head tax

The group, No Tax on Jobs, hopes to announce more about the referendum and its goals next week.

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