Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said on Wednesday she doesn’t support the head tax proposal in its current form, but indicated she’s working on a compromise.
“What is on the table right now, we have seen, doesn’t meet the requirements that I have as mayor. That is very clear,” said Durkan.
Durkan said she would like more accountability measures built into the legislation, as well as a five-year deadline at which point she would like to see the policy reviewed, but council would have the option to renew the tax.
“I want to make sure that we have the best experts and economists who are telling us, ‘What have we done to get a more affordable city, and is it working?’” said Durkan. “Are we getting the right kind of housing in the right kind of places? How is it impacting our jobs and our job market?”
Durkan also referenced other cities, such as Chicago which implemented a similar tax but then rolled it back based on job loss.
“We can’t afford to do that,” she said. “We’re in an ultra-competitive environment right now for jobs, and Seattle has to stay competitive. At the same time we also have to do more to change what’s happening in our city and to help people off the streets.”
So far, the Mayor’s office has received around two dozen letters from various interest groups across the city, along with more than 1,600 emails from constituents.
More than 500 businesses signed on to various letters opposing the head tax proposal, a roughly $500 per-worker tax for full time employees for business grossing at least $20 million annually.
"This isn't just about one employer; there's an entire ecosystem that's interdependent upon each other," said Marilyn Strickland, the President & CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
Despite talk of a compromise or deal in the works, Strickland told KING 5 the Chamber's position of not wanting the tax, at all, hasn't changed.
"We don’t think it’s a good idea," said Strickland. "We don’t think it’s necessary, especially because there’s no plan and there’s no accountability for how the money will be spent."
Labor groups meanwhile remained divided over the issue. A coalition of labor leaders and politically powerful unions such as SEIU 775 and the MLK Central Labor Council support the proposal.
“We know that bending to threats one by one only serves to reinforce the prioritization of corporate profits over people in crisis and working families,” wrote the coalition in a letter to the mayor.
However, construction workers and iron workers tried to shout down Councilmember Kshama Sawant last week after Amazon announced plans to pause construction on its new tower in downtown Seattle, pending a head tax vote.
An Amazon executive called the proposed head tax ‘super dangerous,’ this week in an interview with CNBC.
Durkan still has not indicated whether she will veto the legislation if passed without addressing her current concerns. A committee vote is expected as early as Friday, which would send the proposal before full council on Monday.
“I am working with people, in good faith, in the council chambers, across the spectrum to see if we can find a way forward together,” said Durkan. “I am very hopeful we will get to where we need. If not, I have laid out very clearly what my principles are.”
If the proposal passes council with a veto-proof majority, the Mayor could still veto the legislation and specify objections in writing. According to city charter, the council would then have thirty days to reconsider and vote again.
Council could also override a mayoral veto with a two-thirds majority.