Washington has one of the most regressive taxation systems in the nation. Those earning the least pay the most as a proportion of their income: people making less than $20,000 pay 16% of their income in local taxes compared to just 2.5% of income for the wealthiest. In Seattle, we have continued to increase regressive sales taxes and relied on property tax levies to pay for vital city services while developers and big corporations neglect to pay their fair share.
This collection of progressive taxation policies are designed to reduce taxes on Seattle’s poor, renters, and fixed income seniors who bear Seattle’s tax burden. Growth should pay for growth and these policies harness Seattle’s rapid development to pay for needed services like schools, sidewalks, transit and affordable housing.
Impact Fees for Schools and Sidewalks
Over the past decades, Seattle has left hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for safe streets improvements on the table by neglecting to implement impact fees for new development. As our city adds more than 100,000 new residents over the next 20 years, impact fees are a crucial source of new revenue to pay for local improvements like sidewalks and school expansions. More than 80% of Seattle students live within walking distance to school, so it is crucial that we provide safe pedestrian infrastructure like sidewalks and crosswalks for those students to walk to school. Additionally, Seattle schools are facing overcrowding — we should also use impact fee revenue to pay for expansions.
Employee Hours Tax to Fund Transit
We have an opportunity with the Employee Hours Tax to supplement Move Seattle levy funds. The original EHT required businesses to pay a modest $25 per full-time employee per year to supplement Bridging the Gap transportation levy funds. Unfortunately, the EHT was repealed in 2009. We should bring back the EHT to supplement Move Seattle levy funds and continue to invest in transit infrastructure that reduces congestion city-wide.
Every year we wait to pass the EHT, we lose another opportunity to raise vital funds for public transportation. The EHT can be a progressive tax that charges businesses in high-congestion areas (like South Lake Union) more per employee. We should set a target of $20 million raised per year and direct funds toward equity improvements like improving late-night bus service.
My affordable transportation platform explains in detail how to leverage progressive taxes to expand multi-modal transportation in Seattle.
Corporate Taxes for Affordable Housing
Corporations in our city are contributing to rapidly increasing costs of living and increased displacement. To house the over 8,500 people homeless in Seattle, including nearly 4,000 people sleeping unsheltered, we must massively expand affordable housing, including deeply subsidized housing and permanent supportive housing. Relying on property taxes alone will be insufficient to address the affordable housing crisis in our city. Instead, corporations must pay their fair share in taxes to fund affordable housing. We must raise the tax rate on large corporations, while increasing the exemption for small businesses. Seattle has not significantly raised taxes on corporations since 1989; it’s time to ask Amazon and Google to pay their fair share.
Vacancy and Non-Resident Home Buyers Tax to Fight Speculation in Housing Market
Increasing, multinational corporations and investors are looking to treat housing as a investment. Our campaign believes that housing is a human right and that we must pass robust measures to counterbalance the influence of international finance in Seattle’s housing market. In 2016, non-resident buyers accounted for half of the luxury homes purchased in Seattle and Bellevue. Vancouver BC recently passed a 15% tax on home purchases by non-resident buyers. We must do the same to cool a housing market artificially inflated by foreign capital. Vancouver has also passed a vacancy tax to encourage property owners to make their homes available for the rental market. Seattle must do the same.
My affordable housing platform explains in detail how to leverage progressive taxes to expand affordable housing in Seattle.
Local Income Tax to Reduce Reliance on Property Taxes
I support the legislation proposed by Councilmember Lisa Herbold and the Trump Proof Coalition that would be an important first step toward passing a statewide income tax. The proposed tax would raise up to $125 million in its first year, if it passes the legal challenge. Funds raised from the tax could be used to reduce our reliance on the property tax as well as replace federal funding cut by the Trump administration. Passing a local income tax can lay the legal groundwork to pass a statewide income tax, which will be crucial to address budget challenges in Olympia.