Op-ed: It’s Time to Stop the Tax and Fee Epidemic in Seattle

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By now, you may have heard that the Seattle City Council wants to add another new cost onto the city’s consumers – this time, it’s on app-based deliveries.

At issue is a fee on delivery of meals and other goods; the city wants to use this to offset costs of implementing new app-based worker regulations. This is the ordinance designed to protect workers from arbitrary removal or “deactivation” from a delivery or service app.

Some, including Councilmember Lisa Herbold, chalk it up to the cost of doing business – that corporations “can afford ten cents” to support worker protections. What Councilmember Herbold and others on the council seem to be forgetting is that these costs are not borne by the companies. So 10 cents, on top of another 10 cents, on top of another fee and another tax eventually adds up for the people paying the new costs: the consumers.

We are rapidly approaching a tipping point in Seattle, which already has one of the highest cost of living rates in the country, not to mention a sales tax rate – one of the most regressive taxes around – nearing 11 percent.

So now the council wants to add another fee to offset the cost of the new app regulations. And this is on the heels of a slew of other cost increases, all of which will ultimately be borne by residents and city visitors.

But who else will this impact?

The small businesses, restaurants and independent grocers who rely on the customers who use delivery apps.

The mom and pop restaurants and grocers who are already balancing on the margin of profit and loss, with inflation continuing to drive up the cost of everything – and let’s not forget the gas prices in our state, either.

These costs – PayUp, JumpStart, and now a delivery tax – all add up. And for those living close to the poverty line – or who rely on delivery for health and safety reasons? The cumulative cost impacts have real consequences. That means another order, another meal, another delivery job goes unfilled. Or, it moves to a neighboring community where these added costs don’t exist.

What we need is for the council to take a step back and really look at Seattleites priorities around public safety, substance use and homelessness. The council needs to map its spending priorities around those core issues – and do a level reset of its budget to fund those issues.

It’s not that the city isn’t already taking in more revenue: it is. It’s that the city’s priorities are out of whack with the needs of its voters and residents. Studies have shown that since 2013, city tax collections have increased 94%. That’s four times the population growth during that same time period. Where has all the revenue gone? What has the city received in exchange for these new tax collections? These are questions that need to be addressed. Just adding another tax, or a fee, to offset another new program or regulation, isn’t the answer.

We need to stop the tax and fee epidemic in Seattle. And it needs to start with this budget cycle.

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