Seattle mayoral debate: Both candidates want higher taxes but disagree on who should pay them

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Bruce Harrell, left, and Lorena Gonzalez, right, take part Thursday, Oct. 14 in the first of two debates in Seattle scheduled before the November election for the office of Mayor. (AP Photo /Ted S. Warren, Pool)

In the first live Seattle mayoral debate of the election season, the two candidates — current council president Lorena Gonzalez and former council president Bruce Harrell — agreed on little except this: that tax increases are needed help the city fund additional services.

But who pays those taxes — including large employers such as Amazon — remained a point of contention.

Asked if Amazon, the city’s biggest employer, should do more to mitigate concerns about its effect on soaring housing prices and infrastructure, Harrell said the online retail giant should “pay their fair share of taxes.” He then vowed to hold the company “accountable.”

But when pressed for taxing specifics, Harrell pivoted and talked about addressing the lack of a Washington state income tax. “We will look at that tax structure and revise it,” he said.

Lorena Gonzalez. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren, Pool)

Gonzalez, by contrast, pointed her finger directly at Amazon’s coffers. “It is critically important for us to make sure we have a mayor who is serious about requiring all large profitable corporations (to) pay their fair share.”

She added: “Let’s be real about this. I’m the only candidate on this stage who means it.”

Both candidates in 2018 initially voted to approve the so-called Amazon head tax, only to later switch their votes to repeal it.

Harrell’s road to a state income tax would be a steep one. Currently, Washington court decisions have generally held that the state constitution’s sharp limits on income taxes make a statewide, non-uniform income tax difficult without a constitutional change. (A 2019 court decision on a failed Seattle income tax might have opened the door slightly, however.)

Bruce Harrell. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren, Pool)

Harrell said corporations based in Seattle should match their corporate goals with city’s civic needs.

“They have to align their corporate social responsibility goals with that of the city,” he said. “That would be affordable housing. That would be homelessness.”

Harrell mentioned Amazon’s market capitalization of more than $1.5 trillion.

“When you look at the wealth that these large corporations have, they have to not only pay their fair share of taxes, they have to be aligned with many of the issues that they caused,” he said.

At the last week’s GeekWire Summit, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy described the worsening relationship with Seattle’s political leaders.

“I think our relationship with Seattle had ups and downs, frankly,” Jassy said. “I think the first 20ish years (was) pretty collaborative. Wdecided to build a downtown campus. (The city) was very supportive and solicitous.”

But then five years ago, the mood changed, Jassy continued.

“The City Council has become less enamored with business or with Amazon,” he said. “It’s just been rougher.” Jassy added that Amazon increasingly is looking to nearby Bellevue for its expansion goals.

At the debate, Gonzalez indicated she’s not particularly worried about Amazon withdrawing from Seattle. Pointing to Amazon’s announced plans to hire 12,500 corporate and tech workers in Seattle, the former civil rights attorney said Amazon isn’t going anywhere.

“(Amazon’s) workers and their future workers want to live and work in this city,” she said.

Watch the full debate here.

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Cell therapy startup Immusoft lands deal with Takeda worth potentially more than $900M

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Immusoft CEO Sean Ainsworth. (Immusoft Photo)

Seattle-based cell therapy startup Immusoft will collaborate with pharma giant Takeda to develop treatments targeted to the central nervous system in a deal worth potentially more than $900 million.

Immusoft’s technology involves engineering a patient’s B cells to mass produce therapeutic proteins. These immune cells are good at pumping out large amounts of proteins, such as an enzyme missing in a particular condition.

“This advances our leadership position in B cells as biofactories for therapeutic protein delivery,” said Immusoft CEO Sean Ainsworth in a statement.

The new partnership will focus on delivering protein therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier to treat rare neurometabolic conditions. Under the agreement, Takeda has options to exclusively license programs at the preclinical stage and will take products to the clinic and through commercialization. Immusoft will receive research funding support and an undisclosed upfront payment, with total value of option fees and milestone payments of potentially more than $900 million.

Immusoft’s most advanced therapeutic program is designed to treat a rare enzyme deficiency disorder, Hurler syndrome. The company aims to file an investigational new drug application for the condition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year, according to its website, a key step toward a clinical trial.

Ainsworth, a veteran biotech exec, has led the company since 2018 when he replaced Matthew Scholz, who founded the company in 2009 and is now CEO of Oisín Biotechnologies. Ainsworth previously founded gene therapy company RetroSense Therapeutics, which sold to Allergan in 2016 in a deal worth up to $555 million.

Immusoft closed a $33 million Series B round last year, noted FierceBiotech.

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Microsoft nominates ADP CEO Carlos Rodriguez to board, reports Satya Nadella’s 2021 compensation

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Carlos Rodriguez

Carlos Rodriguez, the CEO of payroll services giant ADP, has been nominated to Microsoft’s board of directors.

Microsoft’s board would expand to 12 members if his selection is approved by the company’s shareholders at its annual meeting on Nov. 30.

Rodriguez has been ADP’s CEO since 2011, after joining the company in 1999. He “brings unique industry and technology expertise, as well as deep understanding of changing work norms,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO and chairman, in a news release announcing the nomination.

The nomination was included in Microsoft’s newly released proxy statement, which also includes details on shareholder proposals and executive compensation.

Microsoft’s board boosted Nadella’s total compensation to $49.9 million for 2021, up from $44.3 million the prior year.

Nadella’s 2021 compensation includes stock awards worth $33 million (up from $30.7 million); non-equity incentive compensation of $14.2 million; (up from $11 million); and a base salary of $2.5 million, the same as the prior year.

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