The city council's budget committee, which includes every member of the council, voted today to eliminate a $25 fee on businesses for each employee who relies primarily on a single-occupant vehicle to commute to work. The tax became a political football in the mayor's race when Greg Nickels and other candidates used it as an anti-tax stump message; Mayor-elect Mike McGinn said he wanted to retain it for transportation funding. But considering that the average Seattle business has only paid about $90 a year in head taxes, it's a negligible—if not fabricated—political issue.
Originally proposed by Nickels before he opposed it, the head tax is designated for various transportation improvement projects. But it was best known as one of the revenue sources to fund bicycle and pedestrian improvements approved under the "Bridging the Gap" levy.
However, City Council President Richard Conlin, one of eight council members who supported its repeal, says that most of the head tax money went toward maintaining bridges—not to painting bike lanes and building new sidewalks. And, he adds, "We have parking taxes to fulfill promises in the Bridging the Gap levy."
Pinehurst organizer Renee Staton says, "In light of the recent election results and in light of the enormous budget shortfall, it seems shortsighted and plain poor stewardship for the council to continue on the path to repeal." She notes the city is facing $70 million budget shortfall.
The council will announce its final budget on November 19 and the full council will take a vote on November 23. After that, if people are worried about fewer bike and pedestrian improvements, Conlin says, "Look and see what we do."