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Originally published November 16, 2009 at 3:54 PM | Page modified November 16, 2009 at 6:01 PM

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Repeal of Seattle's head tax sends a message

The Seattle City Council Budget Committee repeals the unpopular employee head tax. It's a practical decision in a dour economy.

SEATTLE'S misguided employee head tax is about to become a thing of the past. Rightly so.

The City Council Budget Committee's 8-1 vote last week to repeal the tax is mostly practical thinking, but also an example of newfound council empowerment.

For several months, and especially during campaign season, the council has been talking about eliminating the $25 per employee tax. Revenue from it has been dedicated to transportation projects such as streets and sidewalks.

Certain council members would not agree to repeal until the cost of eliminating the tax was considered in the context of other additions and subtractions to the overall city budget. The tax brings in about $4.5 million a year.

The council made good on its promise and removed the tax. Only Councilmember Richard McIver voted no.

The city budget has its own challenges; spending cuts loom. But the head tax was the wrong approach in a challenging economic climate. Businesses lamented the hassle of the paperwork in addition to the cost.

The tax also sent a very unfriendly message to businesses that might want to locate in Seattle.

Although tax repeal was expected, the near-unanimous vote sends word to the incoming mayor, Mike McGinn, that this council is increasingly organized and galvanized by the power change at the top. The new mayor will have to learn how to keep pace with this group.

Rather than leave the tax repeal to chance — the new mayor favors keeping the head tax — the council made good on its promise to eliminate the tax with a strong vote.

The head tax was a lousy idea from the start. The city can find other ways to make up the revenue.

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