Durkan signs Seattle's head-tax ordinance into law

SEATTLE - Mayor Jenny Durkan signed Seattle's controversial new employee tax into law Wednesday evening, her office announced in a press release.

The law imposes a tax of $275 per employe per year on companies grossing more than $20 million in Seattle.  It includes a sunset clause after five years, with renewal requiring a council vote in 2023.

The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

“We must make urgent progress on our affordability and homelessness crisis," Durkan said in a statement Wednesday. "Looking ahead, I am focused on acting to move people off the street and into safer places, to clean up the garbage and needles that are in our parks and in our communities, and to provide resources to those people experiencing homelessness, including job training, behavioral health services, and other supportive services. I’ve heard Seattle loud and clear: they want basic services delivered and are concerned whether the City of Seattle is using their money wisely, efficiently, and responsibly. As part of the budget process, I will remain focused on accountability and transparency for every department and on how this new revenue is going to be used towards homelessness services and new affordable housing.”

The tax is expected to raise about $48 million a year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services. Other cities have implemented similar taxes, but Seattle's is by far the highest in the nation.

Two state senators - Republican Mark Schoesler and Democrat Mark Mullet - have said the city's move was a violation of the state constitution and promised to attempt legislation in January that would overturn the tax.

“I fundamentally believe that we must continue to come together to listen to one another to address these significant challenges," Durkan's statement Wednesday reads. "I understand there are very strong passions and genuine policy differences between neighbors, businesses, community leaders and people across our City on how to best address this crisis, but I know we can be a City that continues to invent the future and come together to build a more affordable, inclusive, and just future for all who call this great City home."