AGC protests Seattle’s head tax proposal

Editor’s note:  AGC members are strongly urged express their views on the head tax. Contact  
Seattle City Council and Mayor Durkan , or show up in-person at City Hall, Wednesday May 9, 9:30 a.m. for the next public hearing.

Telling the Seattle City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan that hurting construction jobs is not the way to combat homelessness, AGC is strongly opposed to the city’s proposed $500 per employee “head tax” – a controversial measure that caused Amazon to pause its ongoing construction in Seattle.

“AGC of Washington opposes this tax, as does the employer community at large. It sends the wrong signal to those who want to start and grow their businesses in our city.” said AGC Seattle District Manager Sonja Forster.  “It is ill-defined, arbitrarily applied and risks upsetting a business community that made Seattle one of our nation’s leading cities. The jobs created by AGC members and their business activity provide hundreds if not thousands of opportunities to expand our workforce and include more people of color, women, and veterans in our great industry. Construction has always been a way for hard-working people to have rewarding careers, provide for their families, improve our neighborhoods and stimulate our local economy.”

The Seattle City Council is considering raising $75 million for homelessness programs though a $500 per employee (or 26 cents per hour) head tax on companies with $20 million or more in gross revenue within the city.  In 2021 the city would move to a 0.7 percent payroll tax.

With about 45,000 workers in the city, Amazon would shoulder more than $20 million of the $75 million total raised.  Amazon would pay an estimated $39 million once the payroll tax kicks in.  To protest the proposal, Amazon recently announced it was pausing any additional construction planning for its Block 18 project and considering subleasing all its leased space in the Rainier Square project.  Sellen Construction is the contractor for the Block 18 project at 7th and Blanchard, which alone is expected to house thousands of Amazon employees in the new 405,000 square foot building.

AGC, individual member companies, and construction unions are strongly opposing the new tax.  In what has become a popular video, ironworkers recently drowned out a speech by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a leading proponent of the tax.

In a letter by the Seattle Chamber cosigned by AGC, the business community expressed support for addressing homelessness. “While we know this crisis must be addressed with urgency for an immediate and permanent resolution, it is critical that a comprehensive plan detailing significant and sustainable improvement methods must be produced before any new revenue is created,” the business coalition said. The letter strongly objected to punishing job creators with new taxes and blaming local businesses for what some view as failure by our elected officials to manage Seattle’s growth. “Currently, the city has no strategic plan or clearly defined outcome, and the amount of taxes proposed are not based on any real financial or economic data. In short, $1.5 billion in new taxes over ten years has been created – with no plan or analysis on need or spending.”

The City Council will be holding a public hearing on the proposal this Wednesday, May 9 at 9:30 a.m. and may take a final vote on the matter as early as May 14.  In-person public testimony is critical. AGC members who would like to participate in the hearing or who would like additional information on the issue can contact AGC Seattle District Manager Sonja Forster at, 206.821.4853.