It’s no October Revolution, but kudos to socialist council member Kshama Sawant and her fellow traveler Nick Licata (literally a communist, in that he once lived in a commune) for fighting to make the city’s proposed Metro buyback funding package just a little less regressive.
Sawant and Licata propose replacing the 0.1 cent sales tax increase component of the package with an increase in the Commercial Parking Tax (from 12.5 percent to 17.5 percent), and a modest restoration of the Employee Hours Tax: $16.68 per employee per year, with small businesses exempted. That would cost a Seattle business only $1.39 per employee a month, about 8 cents an hour—hardly the type of burden that would drive jobs out of booming Seattle.
I won’t belabor the details here; Sawant has posted an informative FAQ on her council blog. Go read that. But I will take the opportunity to editorialize.
As I see it, there are two compelling reasons for the council to adopt the Sawant/Licata proposal: 1) It’s more fair; and 2) The resulting tax package would be more likely to pass voters.
On the first point, Washington already has the most regressive tax system in the nation, and by far. This tax swap doesn’t do a lot to reverse that, but at least it doesn’t add to it the way a highly regressive sales tax increase would. About 40 percent of downtown Seattle workers rely on Metro to commute in to work; all Sawant and Licata are doing is asking businesses to pick up a little bit of the cost of maintaining the bus service on which they rely.
On the second point, because the sales tax is so regressive, it is also highly unpopular, which surely contributed to the defeat of the countywide Prop 1 in April. If the Sawant/Licata amendment passes, the council would impose the Employee Hours and Commercial Parking taxes directly. Only the $60 car tab increase would go to Seattle voters in November. Considering how crucial maintaining bus service is to our local economy and the welfare of low and middle income commuters, the council should do whatever it can to best assure passage. Replacing the regressive sales tax component with more progressive alternatives will surely help.
The Sawant/Licata proposal will be debated at today’s Transportation Committee hearing, at 2 p.m., and possibly submitted to a final vote. If you can’t show your support in person, scroll to the bottom of Sawant’s FAQ and email council members. Also, sign this petition.