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caption: Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant
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Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant
Credit: KUOW photo/Liz Jones

Head tax, round two? Councilmember Kshama Sawant wants to revive tax on big business

Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant wants to raise $48 million in next year’s budget for public affordable housing. And reviving the city's controversial head tax is one option she’s considering to make that happen. 

Earlier this year, the council passed and then quickly repealed a tax on big businesses to pay for housing and homeless services. There's currently no plan in place to replace the lost revenue and Sawant said action needs to be taken.

“Four months down the line where is the plan B?” she said. “The housing crisis is raging outside.”

Sawant announced a proposal with three options to raise money for housing on Wednesday. This comes as the council considers Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed budget for 2019.

Besides reviving the tax, Sawant proposed making deep cuts elsewhere in the budget in order to raise the funds for housing. That plan includes slowing new police officer hiring and reducing the number of city executives — “because everyone has too many bosses," Sawant said.

caption: One option Councilmember Sawant has proposed to raise money for affordable housing includes deep cuts to other areas of the budgets. Here are the cuts she's proposed.
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One option Councilmember Sawant has proposed to raise money for affordable housing includes deep cuts to other areas of the budgets. Here are the cuts she's proposed.
Credit: Courtesy of Councilmember Kshama Sawant's office


A third funding option would have the city take out a bond — and fund bond payments through reviving the head tax or making budget cuts.

Sawants proposal estimates that a $480 million bond could build upwards of 3,000 homes, and could be paid off in installments of $36 million per year.

To amend the proposed budget and get her options on the table, Sawant would need the support of other council members. It’s unclear if any of her colleagues support her idea at this point.

Sawant said she hopes they’ll get on board.

"If they have better solutions to fund housing I am happy to join them in that effort,” Sawant said.

Sawant said she won’t support inaction on this issue.

Even if the proposals don’t make it into the budget, this proposal is likely to become a platform for Sawant’s supporters. 

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