“We always feel that we are being given this choice, if you want a better transit system we need to raise the sales tax, we need to raise the property tax, we need to raise the car tab fees,” Katie Wilson said. “All these taxes that are hitting the working and poor people the hardest and we have to vote to raise those taxes to get a world-class transit system.” Building on the energy generated by the 2016 election, the group partnered with the Economic Opportunity Institute to begin creating a more equitable tax system and “Trump-Proof” Seattle.
The higher profile names jump off the list include Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, former interim city council member Kirsten Harris-Talley (Harris-Talley was one of the original proponents of the employee head tax on the council), Downtown Emergency Services Center Director Daniel Malone, and John Burbank, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute—a local progressive think tank which has spearheaded efforts to establish a city income tax.
Still, there are longtime Seattleites who say it’s too little, too late. Take John Burbank, founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a liberal think tank. “While it has led to an economic boom in Seattle, that boom has primarily benefitted tech workers at the top and left everyone else with higher rents, higher property taxes, traffic congestion and a bitter taste in our mouths,” Burbank wrote in a blog post in September. “Amazon has been a sociopathic roommate, sucking up our resources and refusing to participate in daily upkeep.”
Burbank, founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a Seattle-based, left-of-center think tank, writes that, “While [Amazon] has led to an economic boom in Seattle, that boom has primarily benefitted tech workers at the top and left everyone else with higher rents, higher property taxes, traffic congestion and a bitter taste in our mouths. Amazon has been a sociopathic roommate, sucking up our resources and refusing to participate in daily upkeep.”
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.
Rather than just sit and watch Airbus put together its new C Series assembly in Alabama, our elected officials, the machinists union and the engineers union, SPEEA, could figure out a package for Airbus in our state.
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