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EDITORIAL: Seattle imposes a job-killing tax on jobs

Progressives are floating plenty of awful ideas these days — a universal income, “free” college and a government takeover of health care, to name just a few. Nevadans should be wary of pols promising more stuff paid for with other people’s money. The results rarely work out as advertised.

Take Seattle, which is apparently now trying to top California for leftist lunacy.

In 2015, Seattle brought its citizens a $15-an-hour minimum wage law. But apparently, the City Council felt that wasn’t enough of a job killer. So now comes the next great employment killer: a head tax levied against larger businesses.

On May 14, the Seattle City Council approved on a 9-0 vote a head tax of $275 per employee to help fund housing for the city’s homeless population. Perhaps those businesses should have been grateful, because the initial plan was to tax at a rate of $500 per employee.

For the moment, an estimated 600 employers will fork over $40 million-plus per year for the next five years. It’s such a miserably bad idea that even the Seattle Times editorial page — hardly a bastion of conservative thought — has come out strongly against this regressive tax.

This levy is literally a tax on jobs. It’s a massive disincentive for investment and employment growth — progressive virtue-seeking under the guise of helping the homeless that will only help create more of them. As the Times pointed out, the companies facing the tax already provide 150,000 jobs, generate most of the city’s discretionary revenue and are responsible for much of the city’s economic activity.

Furthermore, as Reason.com’s John Stossel noted, Seattle’s housing troubles are more likely the result of the city’s strict building codes, rather than a lack of taxpayer money. “Developers can’t build big apartment buildings because in most of Seattle’s residential land area, high-rises are illegal,” Mr. Stossel pointed out. “Zoning rules say only single-family houses may be built. If Seattle just repealed many of those regulations, affordable housing would grow.”

Once again, the regulatory state creates a problem, and its proponents respond by exacerbating the issue with higher taxes and more regulations. It’s an all-too-familiar refrain. See California. It should be no surprise that several Silicon Valley municipalities, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, are now pondering whether to mimic Seattle and pass their own version of a tax on jobs. What could go wrong?

Seattle’s citizens have a chance to overturn this burdensome tax via initiative and should certainly do so. And if members of the Seattle City Council really want to help those most in need, they will quit grandstanding and embrace policies that enhance — rather than restrict — opportunity, job growth and investment. In fact, that’s a lesson many Nevada politicians also need to remember.

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