May 18, 2020 - Douglas Myser

Seattle freezes payroll tax debate. The Seattle City Council has suspended its consideration of a proposed payroll tax. City Council president M. Lorena Gonzalez (D) noted that a proclamation by Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) limits the topics that public bodies such as the city council can take action on during the pandemic to those that are "necessary and routine matters" or "matters necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak." The payroll tax proposal is outside that range of issues, according to Gonzalez. "In recent weeks, some of my City Council colleagues have begun to express concerns related to the City Council's ongoing attempts to comply...with Proclamation 20-28 as it relates to the Council's consideration of the corporate payroll tax legislation, "I have become increasingly concerned that the substance of these bills and the facts established in its legislative findings do not meet the high standard necessary to support a conclusion that the package as a whole is either routine and necessary or sufficiently related to COVID-19 and the current public health crisis as required by Proclamation 20-28", she added. Seattle freezes payroll tax debate.

In a memo to her fellow council members, Gonzalez explained her posiiton on the legislation and asked "Budget Chair Mosqueda (D) to strongly consider cancelling the Select Budget Committee meeting scheduled for May 13, 2020, and to refrain from convening public meetings on these proposed bills--the payroll tax package--"through at least May 31, 2020". Mosqueda said in the press statement that she agreed to follow Gonzalez's request, arguing that the move helps to "ensure transparency, accountability and participation from the public, and to protect the health and safety of city employees and attendees."

Sawant and fellow council member Tammy Morales (D) introduced legislation early in April after building a grassroots base of support in the city for the proposal: it would impose a 1.3 percent tax on the Seattle payroll expenses of businesses with $7 million or more in annual Seattle payroll costs.

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