Holding veto power, Durkan says she can't support $500 head tax OK'd by City Council committee

SEATTLE -- A Seattle City Council committee approved a $500 per year head tax for large companies on a 5-4 vote Friday.

The final City Council vote is scheduled for Monday.

After the committee vote, Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a statement in which she said, “Unfortunately, the bill that passed out of committee hurts workers by stopping these good jobs, so I cannot support it.”

The $500 head tax would generate $75 million per year to build affordable units to house homeless people.

Many who showed up to the committee meeting blasted a last-minute compromise supported by Durkan that would have cut the $500 a year tax per employee in half -- to $250. That proposal was estimated to generate $40 million a year in revenue.

"Mayor Durkan must have misread -- she is proposing $40 million, maybe she left out a zero,” said one speaker, alluding to a new consultant study that says King County would need to spend $400 million a year to solve the homeless crisis.

“I cannot support a $250 (per employee) proposal,” City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez said, referring to the Durkan proposal.

It's a deal that construction workers desperately wanted.

“We need a compromise and see what a win looks like for all of us here and not just one group,” said Monty Anderson, executive secretary of the Seattle/King County Building Trades.

Anderson said he had  talked to Amazon and that the company would have gone along with a $250 employee head tax per year.

“If we get to some middle ground, those people are going to go back to work,” Anderson said.

Amazon halted construction on a big building downtown over the head tax issue. The building is supposed to house 7,000 new jobs.

But the $250 deal didn’t have enough votes, dying in a 4-5 vote.

“Vote for the strongest possible tax for big business,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant had argued.

“Her views are not sustainable for us to be productive in this city,” Anderson countered.

Council members who also disagreed with Sawant included Debora Juarez.

“This is not going to be a ripple effect, it will be tidal wave because we are not going to stay in this economic boom forever,” Juarez said.

Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who came up with the $250 proposal supported by Durkan, says the council is at a deadlock.

“We are going to expect the mayor to step up, the next 30 days will be very interesting. I don't expect the votes to change Monday,” Harrell said.

Harrell means a veto by the mayor if the final votes are the same on Monday.

We asked Sawant what her next move would be if Durkan does veto.

“We come back to committee, we can continue the conversation,” Sawant said.

But Sawant is not willing to budge from the original proposal of $500 tax per worker a year.