Employee Hours Tax Campaign
The Housing For All Coalition is currently focusing on passing an Employee Hours Tax through the Seattle City Council by mid-May, to raise at least $75 million per year for deeply affordable housing, shelter, and services. Want to learn more? You've come to the right place!
In fall 2017, Housing For All championed a proposal put forward by Councilmember Mike O'Brien and interim Councilmember Kirsten Harris-Talley to impose an "Employee Hours Tax" on large businesses to fund new housing, shelter, and services. Although the measure fell in a 5-4 vote, on November 20th the council unanimously passed Resolution 31782. This resolution expressed the council's intention to find new progressive revenues including an Employee Hours Tax, and to pass legislation in spring 2018 to "make investments with these revenues that would assist people who are homeless or at a high risk of becoming homeless in obtaining and retaining stable housing."
Progressive REvenue Task Force
The City Council created a Progressive Revenue Task Force to study the issues and make recommendations. Chaired by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Lorena González, the Task Force included representatives of several organizations in Housing For All, as well as other advocates, experts, and business owners. After many meetings the Task Force unanimously recommended an Employee Hours Tax to raise $75 million per year, the top of the range they were asked to consider. They recommended that 80% of the funding be used for housing and 20% for shelter and services, and that the tax be structured as equitably as possible so that very large businesses like Amazon - the ones that are benefitting most from our region's growth and can most afford it - will contribute most.
Housing For All Builds Broad Support
While the Task Force was at work, Housing For All was out in the community learning from and educating our neighbors and allies, and finding overwhelming support for bold action on the homelessness crisis. On February 20th, in collaboration with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda's office, we hosted a special meeting to explore "Seattle's Housing Gap". You can see the slide presentation here or watch the whole event here. Then on March 14th, the same day the Task Force presented their recommendations, Housing For All delivered a letter signed by fifty organizations urging the councilmembers and Mayor to find at least $150 million in new progressive revenue, including a tax on large businesses.
Big business opposition hardens
The Chamber of Commerce and other big business-dominated groups are on the warpath against this legislation, using all their leverage to kill it. By focusing on a minor recommendation of the Task Force - that a modest annual fee such as $400 be paid by businesses with revenue between $500,000 and the EHT exemption threshold, which is likely to be $10 million - they have managed to mislead many small businesses into thinking that they will be heavily impacted. Housing For All is working to counter this effort by reaching out to small business owners and building support for EHT legislation that will not impact them, and Councilmember Kshama Sawant is pushing for the small(er) business fee to be dropped.
The Road Ahead: Aiming for passage on May 14th!
With some persistence and hard work we will win this groundbreaking legislation. A few upcoming landmarks:
Monday, April 23rd: Legislation introduced, Public Hearing at 5:30 PM
Wednesday, May 2nd: North Seattle Town Hall hosted by Councilmember Mike O'Brien, details TBD.
Wednesday, May 9th: Target date for votes on amendments and final committee vote. Finance and Neighborhoods Committee Meeting, 2pm.
Monday, May 14th: Target date for final vote. Full Council Meeting, 2pm.