Seattle scales back tax in face of Amazon's revolt, but tensions linger

King County Executive Dow Constantine delivers the 2017 State of the County address in Auburn

Seattle leaders on Monday unanimously approved a tax on large businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks to fund the fight against homelessness after weeks of heated debate and raucous hearings. "The city does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending efficiency problem".

The Seattle City Council on Monday passed a plan to tax businesses making at least $20 million in gross revenues about $275 per full-time worker each year. The amendment is the result of a compromise reached between Mayor Jenny Durkan and several sponsors of the originally proposed tax over the weekend.

Along with the tax Monday, the council approved a non-binding resolution that calls for spending 66 percent of the new money on affordable housing, 32 percent on emergency shelter, trash pickup, raises for service workers and other needs and 2 percent on administration.

City coffers are expected to receive around $48million per year under the new proposal, down from $80million under the original. A count previous year found King County's homeless population to have reached more than 11,000, and a pro bono report issued last week by McKinsey & Co. for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce found that it would cost about $400 million to address the shortage of affordable housing in the area.

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Head taxes are extremely rare in the US and the ones in place are a fraction of Seattle's proposal.

"Big businesses like Amazon have many tactics to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and it has required true dedication and sacrifice from hundreds of us to bring us to this point".

The mayor issued a statement and held a press conference following the council's passage of the employee-hours tax, stating her intent to sign the legislation. The tax would end after five years unless renewed by the city. Seattle should be a place for businesses to come, but the council seems content with passing laws that will shun this city from economic opportunities. The e-commerce giant paused construction on one of its office towers and said it is reconsidering occupying another.

In a statement, Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice president, said Amazon was "disappointed" in the vote and remains "very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here". It found that a lack of coordination between Seattle, surrounding cities, and the county creates inefficiency in the region's homeless response.

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The city's homeless population is growing, behind only NY and Los Angeles.

The city spent $68 million on homelessness previous year, according to NBC.

"This was a tough debate in our city", she said.

Even though the company made a decision to resume one of its building projects, Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice president, said in a statement, "We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here".

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Proponents of the head tax say companies such as Amazon have contributed to homelessness because their highly-paid employees have driven up rents and home prices.

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