What began last month as an "Amazon Tax" in the company's hometown of Seattle has morphed into a "Google Tax" in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View. The taxes, sometimes named for the city's largest employer, are generically referred to as "head taxes," a business tax based on the number of employees. Revenue is used to address local housing and transportation needs exacerbated by businesses which attract large numbers of worker.


According to Khalida Sarwari of The Mercury News, the tax would range between "$9 and $149 per employee, depending on their size."

On Tuesday night, the city council unanimously voted to place the head tax on the November ballot to let residents decide on the controversial measure, as opposed to Seattle's approach of approving it directly only to repeal the tax earlier this month after businesses prepared to submit signatures for a voter referendum in November.

“Everyone is looking for the narrative of a city pitted against their employers, but we see this as a way to work with our employers,” Lenny Siegel, the mayor of Mountain View, told The Chronicle. “We will solve one of the major problems that they’re having, which is getting people to work.”

John McAlister, a City Council member who also serves on the board of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, says that Mountain View needs to be bold.

“I hope we take advantage of this opportunity to find another revenue source to solve housing and travel congestion,” McAlister said. “We don’t have to rely on the county or the region, we’ll have control of our own transportation dollars.

Not surprisingly, business groups are opposed to the employer taxes.

“There is no question that the issues Mountain View wants to address, like traffic and housing are real,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council, a public policy advocacy group. “But taxing the lifeblood of the community isn’t the way to go about it.” Wunderman called the proposed tax “anti-job.”