Seattle Chamber halts fight against city’s big business tax

Historic Northwest Heat Wave May Have Killed Hundreds
Ted S. Warren

Visitors take advantage of sunny weather to take in the view from the Space Needle, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, as seen from Kerry Park in Seattle. Temperatures cooled considerably in western Washington, Oregon and British Columbia Wednesday after several days of record-breaking heat, but the interior regions of the region were still sweating through triple-digit temperatures as the weather system moved east.

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce will not appeal the latest court decision upholding the city’s tax on big businesses.

A lawsuit filed by the chamber in 2020 argued that Seattle’s JumpStart tax — which requires high-earning companies to pay an annual tax on salaries over $150,000 — was unfairly and illegally placed on people earning a living wage, The Seattle Times reported.

After a King County court dismissed the suit in 2021, the chamber appealed to an appellate court which deemed it an “appropriate” use of the city’s taxing authority.

Chamber President and CEO Rachel Smith said in a letter this week to members that the chamber will drop the case.

“Ultimately, with two lower court rulings against us, it is unlikely that there will be a different outcome for this legal strategy at the Washington State Supreme Court,” the letter reads.

“We will continue to work tirelessly on major issues like the city of Seattle budget, homelessness, public safety, and affordability,” Smith added Thursday.

The tax, passed by the Seattle City Council in 2020, requires businesses with at least $7 million in annual payroll to pay between 0.7%-2.4% on salaries and wages paid to Seattle employees who make at least $150,000 per year. The highest rate is applied to salaries of at least $400,000 at companies with at least $1 billion in annual payroll.

The tax brought $231 million in revenue to the city in 2021.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who championed the tax, celebrated the chamber’s decision not to appeal during a news conference Thursday to announce housing developments that will receive funding from the tax.

Roughly $79 million in JumpStart revenue will go to 17 housing projects announced Thursday, helping to pay for more than 1,700 units of affordable and supportive housing across the city.