OLYMPIA — A measure that would allow King County to tax large businesses to raise money to build affordable housing to fight the region’s homelessness crisis has been introduced in the Legislature.
House Bill 2907 would impose an annual payroll expense levy on companies and would let the county increase that rate for highly-paid workers. King County is home to major tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft with many employees making more than $100,000 annually.
The bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, and others comes after the Seattle City Council in 2018 repealed a similar tax on large companies it had just passed that was designed to bring in money to address homelessness issues.
Seattle’s so-called head tax would have charged companies about $275 per full-time worker each year for affordable housing and homeless services. It targeted nearly 600 businesses making at least $20 million in gross revenue. The Council reversed itself after objections from businesses — including Amazon — and some labor unions.
The new House bill includes exemptions for certain businesses, such as those with fewer than 50 employees. Under the Legislature’s rules most bills must be passed out of policy committees by Feb. 7 or they won’t move forward.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement the tax could raise $121 million per year.