Jenny Durkan
Jenny Durkan Ulysses Curry

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Mayor Jenny Durkan has proposed a head tax that raises less money for housing and homelessness services than a competing plan that has so far been supported by a majority of city council members.

Under Durkan's plan, the city would collect $250 per employee from businesses grossing more than $20 million in annual revenue, raising an estimated $40.59 million per year. The tax would be up for review after five years. Council members Rob Johnson, Debora Juarez, Bruce Harrell and Sally Bagshaw support Durkan's proposal, a spokesperson for the mayor said.

The head tax proposed last month by four other council members would collect $500 per employee from the same set of businesses, adding up to about $75 million per year. Starting in 2021, the employee hours tax would transition to a .7 percent payroll tax. Durkan's proposal does not include a payroll tax.

Council members Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Teresa Mosqueda and Mike O'Brien are co-sponsoring the bigger tax. Kshama Sawant also supports this version, which follow recommendations from a task force convened by the council to come up with new progressive revenues sources. It takes six votes to override a mayoral veto.

An amendment to the $75 million proposal, intended to bring it closer in line with Durkan's criteria, would do away with the payroll tax. It would also put the tax up for review after five years.

In announcing the new tax, mayoral spokesperson Stephanie Formas also pointed to an email from Deputy Mayor Mike Fong to council members identifying "new financial resources available to Seattle and the region for emergency homelessness response and behavioral health services," including $40 million from the state budge for behavioral health funding and $5.7 million from King County for emergency shelter.

"From the beginning, I’ve believed that there was a path forward to lift up those left behind while protecting jobs," Durkan said in a statement. "I’ve heard from thousands of constituents, hundreds of businesses of all sizes, dozens of unions, and advocates, and we share the same goals: keep a strong economy, help the thousands of people experiencing homelessness and make Seattle affordable for residents, artists, and businesses of all sizes."

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Durkan's proposal comes the night before a Friday committee meeting where council members are set to debate both plans.

A report commissioned by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce found that it would cost about $400 million to meet homelessness needs in King County.

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