Don Brunell

Don Brunell

Seattle faces ‘lights out’ in 2022

Far too few people remember the 1972 Seattle billboard: “Would the last person who leaves Seattle please turn out the lights?” The reference was to the massive job losses at Boeing when the supersonic transport project collapsed and the company, then headquartered in Seattle, was on the ropes.

That was a painful time especially for working families and local government leaders. Those who lived through it have no interest in a repeat performance. However, given the direction Seattle is heading today, the billboard may re-emerge by 2022—if not before.

While the worldwide economy has tanked under the coronavirus pandemic, most government leaders are looking for ways to restore jobs in the private sector, their economies, and tax revenues, while struggling to pay for essential services and contain the vicious virus.

On the other hand, Seattle’s City Council is heading in the opposite direction. It overwhelmingly passed the largest tax increase in history on business.

Companies with more than $7 million in annual payroll will be charged a percentage based on how many people they employ with salaries of at least $150,000. Companies that have billion-dollar payrolls will pay an even bigger share for high wage workers. It takes effect in 2022.

“Taxing jobs is bad public policy, and it is even more concerning as Seattle faces double-digit unemployment,” the Downtown Seattle Association wrote. “As the region enters a deep recession and faces near-record job losses, the Seattle City Council moved forward at a rapid pace to tax hundreds of businesses to fund new city programs instead of planning for how to sustain basic city services and working on economic recovery.”

Seattle Times Columnist Jon Talton wrote: “Seattle is facing more economic uncertainty than the “Boeing bust” of the 1970s. The unemployment rate is close to 14%, hotel revenues are off 85% compared with this past year, the lucrative cruise season is shut down along with a huge swath of businesses that can’t work remotely or provide essential deliveries. All of this is exponentially worse than the Great Recession.”

Council members call it the “JumpStart Seattle” plan which could end up becoming the Bellevue-Redmond Full Employment Act, Talton wrote.

Some business leaders are looking beyond Washington. For example, last month, Peter Rex, founder of Rex Teams, a $1.5 billion tech, investment and real-estate firm, announced its move from Seattle to Austin in the Wall Street Journal.

Employers in Washington are facing other higher costs.

For example, by 2022, taxes that employers pay to cover unemployment benefits are expected rise to an average of $936 per worker. That’s almost three times the expected 2020 figure, according to the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD hints taxes would be even higher if state is forced to borrow from the feds to pay extended benefits or if there is a spike in layoffs.

State tax revenues are falling behind. There is an $8.8 billion shortfall in Washington’s State operating budget projected by 2023 prompting a call for additional taxes. The June revenue forecast reduced estimated state revenues by $4.540 billion (8.7%) in 2019–21 and by $4.342 billion (7.8%) in 2021–23, the Washington Research Council reports.

If that isn’t depressing enough, sections of Seattle, the proud city which drew millions of visitors to the World’s Fair in 1962, is littered with broken glass and boarded up businesses, restaurants, stores and government offices. This once beautiful city is laced with graffiti.

What’s next for Seattle? It could get worse.

Seattle City Council members are looking to defund the already short-handed police department by 50%. Seattle needs to reverse course and once again be a welcoming city with safe streets. Otherwise, people will bypass it.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Coronavirus and the silver lining for airline industry | Brunell

It’s no secret that airlines and airplane manufacturers have been clobbered by… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
State Legislature will reflect our changing society | Roegner

When you picture the Washington state Legislature, it usually looks like mostly… Continue reading

Photo by Greg Asimakoupoulos
Post-election: The White House or our house? | Guest column

Election Day has come and gone. And while some outcomes are yet… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Time to predict November’s election winners | Roegner

A look at statewide offices in Washington.

Woman holding a condom. Courtesy photo
Editorial: Referendum 90 serves parents’ choice, kids’ health

It assures — at parents’ option — all K-12 students can get age-appropriate sexual health education.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election outlook for South King County incumbents | Roegner

Legislative races and King County Charter amendments to watch.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
In politics, why is everything blue or red? | Roegner

The election could get even stranger.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Coronavirus stimulates RV sales and rentals | Brunell

Before the pandemic came ashore, the number of active camping households was increasing.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos took his future wife, Wendy, to the Rose Bowl game between Washington and Michigan. Courtesy photo
When life is threatened, love finds a way

I wanted her to live. I wanted a future with her.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
I-940: Good policy, but watch closely | Roegner

State law regarding use of deadly force is finally seeing results in 2020.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Editorial: Let’s clear the air on wildfires, climate change

Agreement and commitment is needed to address the causes of wildfires and climate change.