‘Millionaires tax’ question in voters’ hands on Nov. 8

  • The Massachusetts State House in Boston

For the Gazette
Published: 10/4/2022 8:46:40 PM

Editor’s note: This is the first of four stories explaining the four questions on the November ballot. This one, about Question 1, is written by Beacon Hill Roll Call.

BOSTON — The first question on the November ballot asks voters if they favor a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4% income tax, in addition to the current flat 5% one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million annually.

Language in the amendment requires that “subject to appropriation” the revenue will go to fund quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation.

The proposal is sponsored by Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, and Rep. James O’Day, D-West Boylston. It qualified to get on the November ballot when it was approved by the 2019-20 Legislature and then the 2021-22 Legislature. If voters approve the proposal, it will become part of the state Constitution.

The most recent approval was on June 9, 2021, when the House approved the tax hike 121-39 and the Senate approved it 38-2. All but two of the senators and representatives in the Gazette’s coverage area voted for the constitutional amendment. Reps. Donald Berthiaume, R-Spencer, and Todd Smola, R-Warren, voted against.

The proposal has been dubbed by sponsors “the Fair Share Amendment.” Opponents reject that label and call it another unnecessary excessive tax.

Supporters say the amendment will affect only 18,000 extremely wealthy individuals and will generate up to $2 billion annually in additional tax revenue. They argue that using the funds for education and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation will benefit millions of Bay State taxpayers. They note the hike would help lower-income families who are now paying a higher share of their income in taxes.

Opponents argue the new tax will result in the loss of 9,500 private sector jobs, $405 million annually in personal disposable income and some millionaires moving out of state. They say that the earmarking of the funds for specific projects is a phony sham and argue all the funds will go into the General Fund and be up for grabs for anything.

“The Fair Share Amendment is a win for all Massachusetts residents,” O’Day said. “That is why the list of small businesses, unions and community organizations that support Question 1 continues to grow. I encourage everyone to visit fairsharema.com, read the text of the amendment and learn more about our efforts. If you’re part of the 99% of Massachusetts residents who make less than $1 million a year, your taxes will not change.”

Lewis says the measure would make “our tax system more equitable by asking the wealthiest households to pay a little bit more, and it will strengthen our economy by investing these funds to improve educational opportunities for all students and help rebuild our aging transportation system.”

Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, which led the opposition to and defeat of the last two attempts to impose a graduated income tax in 1976 and 1994, questioned “how many times do voters need to reject a graduated income tax before the insatiable takers accept their decision? They won’t be satisfied until they drive out the productive and strangle the golden goose to death. Then who’ll they pillage?”

“Question 1 is one of the state’s highest-ever proposed tax increases at a time when our state already has the biggest budget surplus in its history,” said Dan Cence, spokesperson for No on Question 1. “Proponents claim that it will raise taxes only on Massachusetts’ highest earners, but in reality, Question 1 would nearly double the income tax rate on tens of thousands of small business owners, family farmers, retirees, homeowners and other Massachusetts residents. We feel strongly that Massachusetts voters will recognize the harm that this tax hike will have on our economy and vote No on Question 1.”

“Voters must decide this November, if they will go along with the Legislature’s very deceptive ballot question, which gives them a blank check to spend the new tax on anything they want,” said Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “The deceptive ballot question hopes to raise the income tax by 80% on some taxpayers and small business owners that want to retire and sell their business. If taxpayers think an 80% income tax increase is just too high, they can send the clearest message this November and vote ‘No’ on Question 1.”

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