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Seattle council to pause business tax proposal amid pandemic

| May 9, 2020 11:38 AM

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle City Council will halt deliberating a proposal to tax large corporations, council leaders said this week, citing a statewide coronavirus-emergency proclamation that limits what public agencies can discuss during the pandemic.

The decision by Council President M. Lorena González and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda will slow the tax championed by Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales, who already faced opposition from Mayor Jenny Durkan, The Seattle Times reported.

The Open Public Meetings Act-related proclamation, issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in March and extended through May, says agencies are prohibited from meeting in person and from deliberating matters remotely, “unless those matters are necessary and routine matters or are matters necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and the current public health emergency.”

The council’s budget committee, chaired by Mosqueda, has met twice via teleconference to consider the proposal to enact a payroll tax on Amazon and other corporations with annual wage costs of more than $7 million, and a third remote meeting was scheduled for next week. But Councilmember Lisa Herbold wrote a letter to González expressing concern about compliance with the state proclamation.

The Sawant-Morales proposal makes reference to the civil emergency that Durkan and the council declared in March and includes a plan to send coronavirus-crisis relief checks to Seattle households. The proposal also includes the tax, which the council members have said could raise $500 million a year and which would not have an end date.

In interviews Thursday, González and Mosqueda said they now agree with Herbold that the council shouldn’t be considering the tax until Inslee’s proclamation expires.

Sawant decried the move, saying she was stunned and scandalized by the decision.

Morales declined to comment.

Nearly 16,400 people in Washington state have tested positive for the virus and at least 905 have died. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.