Maryland passed a bill earlier this year requiring 8 percent of a company's payroll be spent on health care for its employees IF the company fell in the category of those employing 10,000 people or more. In Maryland, that category included Wal-Mart and ... well, Wal-Mart.
What is the problem with Wal-Mart? It comes to town, or actually to the outskirts of town, hires people at poverty wages to purvey Chinese goods. This immediately guts the business districts far better than any neutron bomb. It puts pressure on state services both from those whose living wage jobs that are lost and those whose new poverty wage job at Wal-Mart comes without benefits -- primarily health care.
People will say I'm picking on Wal-Mart. No. There are other such retailers, Target, for example. No benefits, low wage, Chinese imports. Heck, we have a clutch of them just off the border here in Tacoma in Fircrest. It would be a mistake to cut any of them off from their opportunity to pay their fair share.
The Washington Wal-Mart law would not involve a new tax, just a creative use of the existing B&O. There is a specific retail category in the B&O. A credit or deduction could be devised to target the level of the high volume model that Wal-Mart has used like a bulldozer over the retail business in the state. It might not be $4 million; it might be $10 million.
The proceeds of such a tax could be distributed to the cities nearby, with legitimate retailers allowed to deduct their city B&O's if any have had the good will to locate inside city boundaries. Or the proceeds could go into the general fund to defray the expense of dealing with a prime corporate predator. It might just seed an expansion of rational health care.
At a minimum it would be a spectacle, to watch the two juggernauts in battle.