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Seattle officials are moving to repeal a tax hike on large employers that was signed into law less than a month ago, backing down from a plan fiercely opposed by Amazon.com and much of the city's business community.
With Amazon and Starbucks funding a ballot challenge to repeal the tax, the city's Democratic mayor and a majority of its city council said they plan to strike down the tax levy they approved about four weeks ago. The new tax would have raised $48 million annually to combat Seattle's homelessness and affordable housing crises. The Seattle area has the third-largest homeless population in the country, according to federal statistics.
“It's immensely disappointing,” said Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien (D), who voted for the tax but now wants it repealed. "[But] it has become more and more clear that the people of Seattle seem to agree with Amazon — and at least part of the narrative they and the Chamber of Commerce have been putting out."
The abrupt reversal has enraged some supporters of the "head" tax, who argue that wealthy corporations in the city can afford to pay more to address homelessness. The measure, passed unanimously by the city council, levied a $275-per-employee tax on companies with at least $20 million in gross annual revenue.
Tax experts say the reversal underscores the limited leverage that cities across the country have over corporations such as Amazon, which helped wage an intense public relations campaign to turn the public against the tax. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
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