- Alternate picture here.
We need more progressive taxation! Hear hear! This is something we've been braying about at The Stranger for years. It's wonderful to hear that Burgess is on the same page!
But Tim Burgess is a hypocrite, because while he wants the state legislature to raise taxes on the wealthy and ease the burden on working families, he won't support progressive taxation measures in Seattle—an increasingly expensive city where he's the city council president.
In fact, Burgess has lobbied against progressive taxes at the city level. In 2007, amidst the recession, Burgess campaigned for office on a promise to eliminate the employee head tax. He delivered on that promise in 2009, with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce rallying behind him. More on how that tax works in a second.
Last November, Burgess joined Mayor Ed Murray in persuading Seattle voters to approve Proposition 1, which raised sales taxes by 0.1 percent in the city in order to fund Metro buses, given the lack of funding from the state. But Washington already has the fourth highest sales tax rate in the country. The sales tax is applied equally to the rich and poor, meaning it falls squarely in the "regressive" category.
Council members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant proposed an alternate funding scheme: an increase in commercial parking tax—a tax paid by parking lot operators—of 5 percent, plus the reinstatement of the employee head tax. They suggested exempting small businesses from the employee head tax, but asking larger ones to pay $16.68 per employee per year. Together, the two new taxes—which were targeted toward businesses, not everyone in Seattle—could have raised $21 million.
But Burgess didn't get on board. None of the other council members did, although discussion of their proposal did shake Tom Rasmussen—who announced today he won't seek re-election—into backing Sawant's idea of a tax on millionaires and expressing support for the employee head tax. Council Member Mike O'Brien pointed out that "simply not going backwards isn't enough," and described the parking and employee head taxes as "two robust funding alternatives that I think we’re going to need to go to."
Why won't Burgess support progressive taxes at the municipal level? Where does he stand on Sawant’s idea for tax on millionaires? I emailed him to ask.
"Your questions presume we have good local, progressive taxation options. We don’t," he responded. "We are consistently faced with bad options. We are asked which crumbs we prefer and are told which crumbs are better, but they are still crumbs. The point of my blog post was to highlight our need for a better meal."
I wrote back asking for confirmation or clarification—does this mean he doesn't consider the commercial parking tax and the employee head tax to be good local, progressive taxation options?—but haven't received a response.
So, who's going to run against this guy?
UPDATE: Longshoreman John Persak is one contender.