SEATTLE — Two days after Amazon announced it will halt construction until the Seattle City Council votes on a tax that could cost them more than $20 million annually, business owners in SODO grilled councilmembers themselves.
Jim Parkes, CEO of Fabriform Plastics, questioned Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold about the tax plan that would tax companies grossing $20 million or more per year. The city’s goal is to raise about $75 million annually to pay for affordable housing and services for the homeless – in this plan Amazon, the city’s largest employer, would pay an estimated $30 million per year.
“I can categorically tell you we will not pay that tax,” Parkes told the councilmembers Friday. “As we grow our business we will not grow our business in the city of Seattle and I can tell you I hear the sentiment from so many people.”
Standing inside his warehouse Friday, a handful of workers fixated on tightening screws and packing boxes, Parkes said his company has been through tough times in the past. He said 10 years ago he short-changed himself to make payroll.
Parkes said he tries his best to take care of his 70, or so, employees – offering a good health care plan, a pension plan and 401k matching. But, he said, if the business tax, also known as the head tax, passes he faces a nearly $50,000 per year hit.
“The money’s got to be coming from some place,” Parkes said. “I hate to think it’d be coming from employees, but it’s got to come from somewhere.”
For days the head tax has made big news – a raucous neighborhood meeting in Ballard Wednesday night, workers shouting down councilmember Kshama Sawant during her pro-tax rally outside amazon yesterday. Both the result of amazon telling they city they’re suspending construction pending the outcome of the tax vote
When pressed, repeatedly on Thursday, Mayor Jenny Durkan declined to say she stands on the tax.
“It’s a direct question with a long answer,” Durkan said to KOMO.
During Friday’s meeting with business owners, Gonzalez and Herbold said the city is having some success helping the thousands living on the streets.
“We moved out of shelter and into transitional housing 5,000 people into permanent housing,” Herbold told business owners.
But, one man, questioned how much the city has spent:
“This is the part of problem with the city is that your belief is you put more money into it you will solve it,” he said.
The tax proposal faces its first hurdle; a committee vote next week. If the mayor comes out against the tax it would need six council votes to override a mayoral veto.