Seattle City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on legislation that would repeal the city’s recently passed head tax.
Seven Seattle council members and Mayor Jenny Durkan released a statement Monday that said: "We heard you."
"It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis," the statement read. "These challenges can only be addressed together as a city, and as importantly, as a state and a region."
Council President Bruce Harrell sponsored the legislation to repeal a $275-per-employee tax on businesses grossing more than $20 million in revenue.
The tax, which was signed by Durkan on May 16, is set to go into effect in January with a 2024 sunset clause. It aims to raise funds for housing and homelessness services.
The legislation came one day after a group that opposes the head tax announced it collected 45,833 signatures to get a referendum to repeal the tax on the November ballot. No Tax on Jobs had aimed to collect about 18,000 signatures by Thursday.
"The No Tax on Jobs Coalition appreciates that the Seattle City Council has heard the voices of the people loud and clear and are now reconsidering this ill-conceived tax," the group's spokesperson John Murray wrote in a statement.
Harrell declined to call the legislation a mistake on Monday, saying, "I always tell my children if learning is the goal there are no mistakes and I think what we have learned is a collaborative process, an open process, one with a very well articulated strategy makes sense and that's what I'm focused on moving forward, I'm not going to look over my shoulder and say should I have taken a left turn or a right turn."
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, however, said she couldn't support the legislation without a replacement plan in place. Mosqueda also declined to say the legislation was a mistake, saying "the timing of this is urgency, the urgency of now to get people inside."
Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who also opposes any repeal effort, indicated she was unhappy to be left out of the process.
If the city council was to repeal the tax without a referendum, it would avoid additional election costs, according to the legislation summary note.
Seattle Metro Chamber President and CEO Marilyn Strickland released a statement late Monday," “The announcement from Mayor Durkan and the City Council is the breath of fresh air Seattle needs. Repealing the tax on jobs gives our region the chance to addresses homelessness in a productive, focused, and unified way."
"From day one, the Seattle Metro Chamber has been clear that a tax on jobs is not the way to address the regional homelessness crisis," the statement continued, "Our business community is ready to work on solutions—from employment, to technological innovation, to housing. We look forward to collaborating with federal and state government and the region to help address issues that affect housing stability."
Denise Moriguchi, CEO of Uwajimaya, says her family-owned business that has been in the Seattle community for 90 years. She would have to look at raising prices and possibly cutting back on employee perks because of the head tax. She was happy to hear city council is considering a repeal.
"I was pleased. I feel that Seattle City Council are listening to the people," said Moriguchi. "We want to make sure the money being spent is being spent wisely. The people have spoken. It is not just businesses saying we don't want the head tax."
Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute, said she is very disappointed that city council is considering this kind of reversal.
"We think that we have one of the worst housing and homelessness crisis in the whole entire country and everybody has to pitch in," said Lee. "We are going to have more people living in RVs, more people living on the street, and that is a direct impact on tourism, trade, and businesses."
City Council will discuss repealing the head tax during a special meeting in Council Chambers on Tuesday at 12 p.m. The Council is expected to vote on the measure during the meeting, according to Harrell’s office.