Business Issues Forum Features Discussion on Municipal Income Tax, Sweetened Beverage Tax

By: Kathryn Robertson Posted: 05/16/2017

Tuesday's Business Issues Forum featured discussion on the proposed sweetened beverage tax, municipal income tax

BIF May 2017_wideMunicipal Income Tax
Chamber members heard from Ben Noble, Budget Director for the City of Seattle, for an update on Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Council’s ongoing work toward creating a municipal income tax proposal. Seattle City Council intends to begin consideration of an income tax ordinance by May 31, with the goal of full Council passage by July 10.

Many members voiced concern that a locally implemented income tax would lead to a long and drawn-out court battle, incurring significant litigation fees on residents and businesses. There is also concern that no mechanism currently exists to collect an income tax in Washington state, and to stand up an entirely new system to collect the proposed tax would come at a cost to residents.

The Chamber’s Policy Leadership Group will continue monitoring the issue and will respond with recommendations to the Board of Trustees when a proposal is put forward. The Chamber will be revisiting this issue at next month’s Business Issues Forum on June 20 with Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold.

Sweetened Beverage Tax
The group also discussed the Chamber’s Board of Trustees vote last week to oppose the proposed 1.75-cent per ounce sweetened beverage tax in the City of Seattle. The Board cited concern that the City had failed to demonstrate how the new stream of revenue would be efficiently spent to drive effective outcomes, and the impact the tax would have on member companies—especially small and minority-owned restaurants and retailers.

Members who are concerned about the impacts of this proposal should reach out to their district Councilmember, as well as at-large Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Lorena Gonzalez. The next opportunity to testify on this legislation will be at the City’s next Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods & Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday (5/17) at 9:30 a.m. Amendments are expected to be voted on in committee on May 26, before going to full Council the first week of June.

Members are also encouraged to contact the Chamber’s policy and outreach manager, Kyla Sherich, for questions, talking points, or opportunities to meet directly with City legislators on this issue.

Legislative Update
The forum closed with a briefing on current events in Olympia, where the State Legislature remains in its first special session of the year, working on the budget, specifically the ongoing McCleary funding debate. Legislators are also intent on passing a statewide paid family leave policy this session. While there are not yet concrete policy elements to share, regular closed door negotiations are underway. The Chamber is continuing to work closely with partners, including the Association of Washington Business, the Washington Hospitality Association (representing restaurants and hotels), grocers, retail, and others – and weighing in as negotiations on paid family leave move forward. As we move toward agreement, there will likely be a fair amount of discussion around eligibility, portability, and the amount of leave.

The next Business Issues Forum will be held Tuesday, June 20. Click HERE to view our full agenda and register.