Attorney Knoll Lowney, of the Seattle firm Smith & Lowney, rose for the Economic Opportunity Institute to argue that the statute doesn’t apply because “the city’s tax is not a tax on net income.” He added that “it’s an excise tax, not a property tax” to reinforce the contention that the city has the statutory authority to impose it.
Knoll Lowney of the EOI argued that the 1984 law’s tax provision should be ruled unconstitutional because, he argued, the clause on income was hidden inside “a nothing bill about a nothing topic,” specifically an obscure measure concerning the establishment of city-counties. Lawmakers at the time, he said, did not even debate the measure, proof that they didn’t know what they were approving.
“Poor and middle class people are being pushed out" while the city raises revenue with regressive taxes, Knoll Lowney, representing the Economic Opportunity Institute, said in court Friday. "This threatens to make Seattle a home only for the rich."
“We lack funds to address the homelessness crisis, we lack funds to implement our universal pre-k program, we have failing infrastructure and we're barely starting to address the potential of a serious earthquake or climate change, said Knoll Lowney, lawyer for the Economic Opportunity Institute.
Reporter’s Notebook: Yakima Chamber of Commerce keeps wary eye on Seattle City Council tax proposals
John Burbank emphasized that the organization’s focus is maintaining income tax in Seattle, and it isn’t working to pass a similar measure statewide. But he did note that a legal ruling in proponents’ favor could allow other cities to adopt a similar measure. Residents of various cities have also approached Burbank's organization to get traction on a local income tax.
“Yes, charity can definitely be window dressing,” says John Burbank. “To be honest, we shouldn’t expect corporations to put a lot of money into charitable contributions. That’s what we have taxes for. A lot of charity is to make a corporation look good while they’re skipping out on paying taxes. Amazon should be paying their fair share of taxes, so the public can enjoy more opportunity and economic security.”
According to data from the Economic Opportunity Institute, white women in Seattle make 75 percent of what white men make, Latinx women make 51 percent of what white men make, and black women make 45 percent. (EOI's research appeared in this article - EOI does not endorse Mosqueda or any other candidate.)
Earlier this year, the City Council approved a new income tax on wealthy residents in an effort to overturn Washington’s longstanding legal precedent outlawing income taxes. To help develop its income-tax ordinance, the city hired John Burbank, director of the liberal Economic Opportunity Institute, who last month celebrated Amazon’s move to open a headquarters in another city as “a good thing” for Seattle.
“I think [the second headquarters] can be both a blessing and a curse,” said Matthew Streib, a spokesman for Seattle-based think tank Economic Opportunity Institute. “I think it requires a lot of resources on the city’s part and a lot of planning. I think that Amazon is shopping around for huge tax breaks, and that can be dangerous.”
John Burbank at the Economic Opportunity Institute provided some sage advice when contemplating the possibility of Amazon mimicking Boeing by playing us against other cities: “Don’t repeat what happened with Boeing, where we gave the company everything it wanted and billions in tax incentives to stay in Washington. What happened? They laid off Washington workers and sent the jobs to South Carolina. Corporations like Boeing and Amazon are not good citizens; they don’t care about us.”
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