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Can Cities Make Big Business Pay?

After the city passed a tax on businesses to tackle its housing crisis, corporations mounted a counter-attack. And other cities are watching.
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Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

Last month, Seattle’s city council unanimously passed a controversial new tax on businesses to fund affordable housing and homeless initiatives in the city. The bill became known as the “Amazon tax,” because of threats by Amazon to halt new construction if the tax passed, but many other companies, too, warned that it would stifle business development in the city.

By the time the City Council voted on it, the tax had shrunk to almost half the size of the original proposal. Still, with its passage, the city was guaranteed to net an extra $47 million a year; Amazon promised it would resume construction; and activists declared victory. But the story hasn’t ended there.