Amazon and Starbucks have donated $25,000 each to a referendum campaign on Seattle’s divisive new head tax, according to disclosure reports. Vulcan, the umbrella company for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s various ventures, has also given $25,000 to the effort.
The funds will go toward the “No Tax on Jobs” campaign, an effort to get a referendum on the November ballot that would give voters the option to repeal the tax, which has ignited a fierce debate over the past few weeks. “No Tax on Jobs” has raised a total of $352,775 since launching late last week, as Crosscut first reported.
Additional contributors to the campaign include Madrona Venture Group Managing Director Matt McIlwain, BigOven CEO Steve Murch, NBBJ, Dick’s Drive-In, several grocery stores, and others. A coalition of businesses, organized by Cre8ive Empowerment President Saul Spady, launched the campaign Friday. Spady is the grandson of Dick Spady, the founder of Dick’s Drive-In, though he doesn’t work for the iconic burger chain.
Last week, the Seattle City Council passed the legislation, which will levy a tax of 14 cents per hour worked by each employee at companies grossing more than $20 million a year in the city. That comes out to about $275 per full-time employee annually. It’s estimated the tax will raise $45-$49 million each year to fund affordable housing and homeless services.
The tax has highlighted deep divisions between neighbors, the business community, and city government over how Seattle should address the challenges associated with growth. Despite Seattle’s booming economy — or perhaps because of it — homelessness has been an official state of emergency since 2015. Seattle has the third-largest homeless population in the country, according to Zillow data.
The most ardent supporters of the legislation nicknamed it an “Amazon tax” because the company will be one of the top revenue-generators under the tax. With about 40,000 employees in Seattle, Amazon would be on the hook for about $11 million under the tax. Amazon paused construction on one of its office towers as the debate raged on. Construction on that project has resumed but the company is still considering whether or not it will move into the massive Rainier Square development underway.
The “No Tax on Jobs” campaign has until mid-June to get the 17,000 signatures necessary to get a referendum on the November ballot.