Sawant: Business tax would raise $300M for Seattle housing

SEATTLE -- Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant on Wednesday unveiled details of her business tax proposal that she says would raise $300 million to build thousands of new homes in Seattle and retrofit existing homes.

The proposal would impose a payroll tax of 1.7% on the largest 3% of Seattle corporations, as measured by payroll in the city.

The tax would apply to 825 companies, all of which have at least 7 million in annual payroll.  Sawant says the remaining 97 percent of companies would pay no tax under the proposal.

Nonprofit organizations, public employers and grocery stores would also be exempt.

Sawant says the money will go toward things like affordable housing and converting homes using gas and oil to electric.

She says this is key to addressing the city's affordability crisis.

"I think any rational person, if they're being honest, will have to agree that it is more than reasonable that the biggest and richest companies in our city should pay at least 0.3 percent of their revenue to do their part to address our city's crushing housing crisis," Sawant said.

Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a statement in response to Sawant's proposal. It says, in part:

"I believe that big businesses can and should pay more to address our challenges, but this proposal that is six times bigger than the failed Council head tax proposal is not a plan that I can support.

Being progressive means actually making progress. While slogans are nice, a failed, divisive fight that is high on rhetoric but low on outcomes, or one that funds lawyers instead of housing, is not an actual solution."

The Associated Press contributed to this report