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Amazon, Starbucks lash out after Seattle passes business tax

Amazon, Starbucks lash out after Seattle passes business tax

Seattle's largest businesses, including Amazon and Starbucks, must pay a corporate tax that will raise money to reduce homelessness, under a plan approved Monday.

Despite letters from hundreds of business leaders opposing the tax, in an initial vote Friday the nine-member panel passed the $500-per-employee tax.

The head tax is a $275 tax per employee for larger companies with more than $20 million in annual revenue. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called Monday's vote a "huge victory" and noted that yearly revenue from the new tax on Amazon will be roughly equivalent to what Bezos makes in an hour.

However, with Mayor Jenny Durkan threatening to veto the tax because she was concerned about its impact on employment, the measure had to be watered down to pass.

Durkan should have consulted a fellow former appointee of President Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In Denver, there is a $50-per-year tax for a full-time employee, while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel scrapped the Windy City's tax after calling it a job killer.

Co-sponsor of the charge, Teresa Mosqueda, said the bill was an opportunity to provide housing: "People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity", she said. Kshama Sawant was the sole non-sponsor. Sawant named and criticized her colleagues who opposed the original $500 tax and suggested they are putting the interest of businesses over the homeless.

Without naming Sawant, Juarez offered a retort.

It has been watched closely by other cities amid a highly publicized search for a second North American headquarters by Amazon, the world's largest online retailer with first-quarter revenues of almost $50 billion.

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"Seattle just told the world that if you bring jobs to Seattle, the tax and spenders in the city will tax them", ATR President Grover Norquist said in a statement. Around $11 million of that will come from Amazon.

Durkan also took to Twitter after the head tax passed, stating there will be accountability and oversight regarding how the new revenue is spent, and that includes forming an oversight committee, hiring an economist and making sure people are exiting homelessness. Well, by taxing businesses of course.

Supporters of the tax say that large companies such as Starbucks and Amazon have contributed to Seattle's homelessness by driving up rent and home prices. On the same day, as independent journalist Erica C. Barnett reported, Ballard residents screamed obscenities at local officials who were giving an informational presentation on the proposal.

Amazon said it is still evaluating whether to sub-lease space in a second future office tower in Seattle, a project called Rainier Square, meaning it may move some planned jobs elsewhere and thus avoid further raising its tax liability. Those on the smaller end of that scale say they fear they will feel the brunt of it.

After months of debate, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a $275-per-employee tax on for-profit companies that make more than $20 million a year. After taking office in 2011, Emanuel worked with that council to eliminate a $4-per-head tax.

The legislation was born out of Seattle's "Progressive Revenue Task Force."

"We need to do something about this homelessness crisis", said Justin Bare, who favors the tax.