SEATTLE – A tax on large companies like Amazon that was meant to fight a growing crisis of homeless people was reversed during a noisy meeting of the Seattle City Council that exposed divisions over how much companies that have driven economies should help on the rise to alleviate the disadvantages of success.
A divided crowd sang, booed and booed at the meeting, drowning the city leaders when they cast a 7-2 vote on Tuesday. People shouted: "Stop the derogation", while others displayed a large red banner that read: "Tax Amazon". An opposition group held signs of "There are no taxes on labor."
The vote showed Amazon's ability to aggressively lobby the government for taxes, especially in its hometown, where it is the largest employer with more than 45,000 workers and where it has been criticized for contributing to a growing income gap.
It remains to be seen if Seattle's withdrawal will have a cooling effect on other cities considering taxes on large technology companies to help mitigate the effects of growth.
The City Council of Mountain View, California, where Google is based, will vote on June 26 on whether a similar measure should be put before voters in November. The "Google tax", which has the unanimous support of the council, aims to alleviate transportation problems and high housing costs in the city of Silicon Valley south of San Francisco.
Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel said Seattle did not change its support for the tax, the details of which the council and city administrators have been working on for several months.
"It seems we have a better relationship with our business than Seattle," said Siegel.
said that Google has not taken a position on the proposal and that an "opposition" to the Internet search of the giant and other companies has not materialized.
"That does not mean they endorse it," Siegel said. "Our Chamber of Commerce did not get excited"
. In Seattle, the tax was proposed as a progressive source of revenue to address one of the highest numbers of homeless people, a problem that has not been alleviated even when the city's spending on the issue grew.
Businesses and residents demanded more responsibility for how Seattle finances the lack of housing and housing and said the city should have a regional focus on the problem. Many worried that Amazon and others would leave the city because companies criticized the tax drastically.
Amazon called Tuesday's vote "the right decision for the economic prosperity of the region."
The company is "deeply committed to being part of the solution to ending the lack of housing in Seattle," said Drew Herdener, Amazon's vice president, in a statement.
City leaders underestimated the frustration and anger of residents, businesses and others not only because of the increase in taxes but also because the growing sense of homelessness seems to have worsened, not better, even though Seattle spent millions to fight it.
Invested $ 68 million in the effort last year and plans to spend more this year. The tax would have collected approximately $ 48 million annually.
But a one-night account in January found more than 12,000 people homeless in the Seattle region and its surroundings, a 4 percent increase from the previous year. The region registered 169 deaths of homeless people last year.
Many supporters called the repeal a betrayal and said the tax was a step toward building affordable housing that was so badly needed. They booed the councilors, imploring them to keep it and fight against a coalition of companies trying to get a referendum to annul the tax on the November ballot.
"It's frustrating to see the council so clumsy when the city has so much business power to come here despite the tax," said Jake Lindsay, 25, musician and conductor of Lyft who supported the tax.
Several council members, including three who sponsored the legislation but voted to repeal it, regretted the revocation and admitted that they did not have the resources or time to fight in the referendum.
Councilwoman Lisa Herbold said that "it was really our best option" and that she abrogated it with a shrunken heart. He attacked commercial interests for blaming the problems of government inefficiencies.
The so-called Seattle main tax would have charged businesses around $ 275 per full-time worker each year for affordable housing and services for the homeless. It targeted almost 600 companies that generate at least $ 20 million in gross revenue and would have entered into force next year.
Days after its approval, the No Tax On Jobs campaign supported by businesses began to gather signatures for the vote and raised more than $ 280,000 cash contributions in just weeks.
In Silicon Valley, Siegel, the mayor of Mountain View, said that Google and other companies such as LinkedIn that are based in California recognize that rising housing costs and long commuting make it harder to recruit and retain workers.
He said city officials estimate that the tax would raise about $ 10 million a year once it is fully implemented after three years. It is expected that Google will pay half.
Siegel said public meetings that touched on the issue were "moderately" addressed, and the proposal does not seem as controversial in Mountain View as in Seattle.
Associate Press journalist Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.