Notes from today’s Council meetings

Today we got a preview of the amendments to the “Jump Start Seattle” payroll tax proposal that will be offered — and possibly voted on — Wednesday.

This morning, budget chair Teresa Mosqueda set the stage for Wednesday’s deliberations on her payroll tax proposal. In the morning session, amendments will be offered up, and possibly voted upon, by several of her colleagues. Those amendments include:

  • one by Strauss to “strengthen the ‘level playing field’ language”;
  • one by Strauss to take another $9 million from the city’s “rainy day” fund to increase support for small businesses this year. It would also broaden eligibility to companies with up to 20 FTE-equivalents (including part-time employees), instead of the current 5 full-time employees;
  • one by Strauss that would use some of the payroll tax revenues to provide B&O tax relief for small businesses (Lewis voiced his strong support for this);
  • one by Morales that would increase the tax revenues by adding a third tier for companies with Seattle-based payrolls between $100 million and $1 billion;
  • one by Morales that would condition the sunset provision of the tax on another jurisdiction enacting a progressive revenue measure that would pass through an equivalent amount to the city;
  • one by Pedersen that would exempt nonprofits;
  • one by Pedersen that would strengthen the current language int he bill stating the Council’s intent to repeal the tax if other jurisdictions pass progressive taxes;
  • one by Pedersen that would place the bill on the November ballot instead of the Council enacting it directly. Juarez voiced her strong support for this, and while Herbold was absent this morning she has previously stated her preference for putting a new tax to the voters.
  • one by Pedersen that increases spending in support of small businesses to prevent economic displacement, with a focus on marginalized communities;
  • one by Sawant to increase the revenues to $500 million per year;
  • one by Sawant to add to the spending plan the construction of 1000 homes in the Central Area;
  • one co-sponsored by Herbold that would advance the effective date of the tax to August 1.

In addition, Mosqueda said that once the revenue bill is approved, she intends to re-introduce a substitute version of the spending plan on July 13 as a resolution, rather than an ordinance, which would allow them to immediately vote it through the full Council rather than sending it back through committee or waiting the required week for an ordinance.  However, a resolution is not legally binding, so it would make the Council’s spending plan advisory (though the Council writes and approves the budget every year anyway, so it’s not clear how much difference this would make).

After Wednesday morning’s busy session, the Wednesday afternoon budget committee session will have a continuation of the presentation by the City Budget Office on the Mayor’s proposed re-balanced budget. It was expected that the presentation on SPD’s 911 call data, originally scheduled for last week, would be heard this Wednesday, but Mosqueda announced that it will be on July 8 instead as SPD is revising the presentation to add more information.

This morning, Council member Morales announced two new bills she is working on. The first is a resolution on “financial inclusion,” addressing federal restrictions on the ability for U.S. immigrants to wire money back home to their family. This is an important economic lifeline, especially for East African families, but international money wires have seen new restrictions in the past few years, allegedly to help prevent funding of terrorism.

The second bill would prevent the police from questioning people under the age of 18 without an attorney present. Morales said that the bill has been on hold during the COVID-19 emergency, but she intends to introduce it after the Council’s budget session completes.

Council member Strauss said this morning that he recently met with SDCI regarding tree protections, and he is anticipating receiving a report from them soon with “some exciting updates” on the city’s efforts to protect the tree canopy.

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