By Bob Katzen
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 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5 percent 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 2019-2020 Legislature and then the 2021-2022 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.
The proposal has been dubbed by sponsors as “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 which 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,” said O’Day. “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 percent of Massachusetts residents who make less than $1 million a year, your taxes will not change.”
“I am proud to be the lead Senate sponsor of the Fair Share Amendment … because it will 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,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).
“Question 1 is a win-win for Massachusetts: only people who earn more than $1 million annually will pay more, and 99 percent of us won’t pay a single penny more,” says Jeron Mariani, campaign manager for Fair Share for Massachusetts. “And we’ll all benefit from $2 billion every year that’s constitutionally dedicated to schools, colleges, roads, bridges and public transportation. That’s why thousands of educators, workers, small business owners, parents, faith leaders, municipal officials, drivers and transit riders are working together to pass Question 1.”
“How many times do voters need to reject a graduated income tax before the insatiable Takers accept their decision?” said 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. “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 percent on some taxpayers and small business owner that want to retire and sell their business. If taxpayers think an 80 percent income tax increase is just too high, they can send the clearest message this November and vote ‘No’ on Question 1.”
Here’s the official arguments of the supporters and opponents as they appear in the Redbook – the book, distributed by the Secretary of State to households across the state, that provides Information to voters on ballot questions.
Written by Cynthia Roy, Fair Share Massachusetts
“By voting Yes on Question 1, you will make sure that the very richest in Massachusetts—those who make over $1 million a year—pay their fair share. Current tax rules allow multimillionaires to pay a smaller share in taxes than the rest of us. Question 1, the ‘Millionaires’ Tax,’ will make the extremely wealthy pay an additional 4 percent on the portion of their yearly income above $1 million.
The additional money is constitutionally guaranteed to go toward transportation and public education. Question 1 means every child can go to a great school. We can fix our roads, expand access to vocational training, and make public colleges more affordable. Excellent roads and schools help our small businesses grow, create new jobs and build strong communities. Question 1 means creating opportunity for everyone.”
Vote Yes on Question 1. Only the very rich will pay—not the rest of us.”
Written by Paul D’Amore, Small Business Representative
Coalition To Stop the Tax Hike Amendment
“Question 1 nearly doubles the state income tax rate on tens of thousands of small-business owners, large employers and retirees.
Question 1 treats one-time earnings—the sale of homes, investments, businesses, pensions and inheritances—as income. This would suddenly force many residents into the new, very high tax bracket, depleting the nest eggs of small-business owners and longtime homeowners whose retirement depends on their investments.
Record inflation, supply chain difficulties, and continuing COVID-19 issues make now the worst possible time for massive tax increases—especially when Massachusetts already has a giant budget surplus.
There is absolutely no guaranteed revenue from this huge tax hike would actually increase spending on education and transportation. Politicians are giving themselves a blank check, with no accountability.
Organizations representing over 20,000 small businesses and family farmers urge: Vote ‘No’ on Question 1.”