Seattle council members faced a packed public hearing Wednesday as members on both sides of the head tax debate showed up again to get their voices heard.
The bones of the legislation remain the same. It's a tax on the top 3 percent of businesses (making $20 million or more in taxable gross receipts) that would generate an estimated $75 million a year for affordable housing and services for the homeless.
The tax already has five supporters on the council, enough to pass, but not quite enough (as of yet) to override a veto by Mayor Jenny Durkan. And after weeks of quiet from Durkan, council members during Wednesday's discussion seemed frustrated that the mayor has yet to provide more direction on what kind of "oversight" on spending it would take to earn her support.
"I know everyone wants a Twitter response—yes, no—digital response. The president operates that way. I don't," Durkan said to reporters on Wednesday. "I think what is on the table right now we have seen doesn't meet the requirements that I have as mayor."
What she wants, she said, was a sunset clause, oversight, and "business at the table with us." Meanwhile council member Sally Bagshaw Wednesday afternoon told the public she had been reaching out to businesses since October. Two Amazon representatives have met with at least six of the council members in April and May.
"I have invited you to come and talk and make proposals to be part of the solution," Bagshaw said. "I have not seen the partnership that I would like to see."
Council member Lorena Gonzalez, who co-led efforts on the new employee hours tax, said proposed changes included some feedback she received from the mayor on Saturday but that specifics on the oversight committee would be best left to the executive. Other proposals were a sunset clause and reconsideration of a payroll tax that would replace a head tax in 2021.
Meanwhile a coalition of labor groups sent a letter supporting the tax. Labor-backed Working Washington took efforts a step further to urge attorney general Bob Ferguson to investigate whether Amazon was committing a felony over its threat to halt construction on a new tower.
But council members Bagshaw, Debora Juarez, Bruce Harrell, and Rob Johnson remain on the fence as a vote creeps closer into view. Council members could take action in the finance committee as early as Friday.
"I think when you have a single narrative (of the tax affecting) one single company, you are forgetting the economic ecosystem of the city," Juarez said. "This is a regional, King County problem. I think Bothell, and Shoreline, and Burien, all of these cities need to step up as well."