As the pandemic continues to ravage the local economy, voters in Massachusetts agree on several measures the state should take to address COVID-19, with an emphasis on helping those who have been hardest hit.
A survey by public opinion research firm MassINC conducted last month shows how voters think lawmakers should allocate state funds, as well as where that money should come from. The poll of more than 1,500 registered voters was sponsored by The Boston Foundation, The Hyams Foundation, King Boston, Amplify Latinx, BECMA, and other groups.
More than 80 percent of respondents said they support funding for relief efforts focused on testing and vaccinations, preserving public transportation for those who need it, and helping individuals avoid eviction. There are similar levels of support for actions the state could take to provide emergency funding to small businesses and extended unemployment benefits.
Most voters support raising income taxes on wealthy individuals and corporate profits to make up for what will likely be a budget gap as lawmakers find ways to pay for pandemic recovery efforts on top of regular expenses. About 70 percent of respondents were in favor of the potential 2022 ballot question that would increase taxes by 4 percent for those making over $1 million annually.
While just over half of voters think taxes in Massachusetts are higher than other states, about 60 percent think upper-income residents pay too little in taxes.
Some state spending priorities received particularly strong levels of support from Black and Latino voters. For example, 64 percent of Black voters and 64 percent of Latino voters said affordable child care is a “very important” priority, compared to 45 percent of white voters. MassINC also found that Black and Latino voters were more likely to prioritize investing in communities of color, diversifying state contracts, and supporting home ownership for lower-income residents.
“Black and Latino voters agree with white voters on how to fund recovery needs, but they identify a much longer to do-list for state leaders,” said Steve Koczela, president of MassINC.
More than 65 percent of voters said it is “very important” over the next few years that lawmakers prioritize lowering the cost of health care. The next highest priorities include increasing access to mental health services, improving K-12 public schools, and providing workforce training to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. About 70 percent of Latino voters consider the job training measure “very important,” compared to 63 percent of Black voters and 53 percent of white voters.
The majority of respondents also want lawmakers to ensure all taxpayers, including corporations, pay a fair amount of taxes, making sure the taxes for low-income residents are as low as possible. Voters also felt it was important for lawmakers to make the best use of existing funds before raising taxes, and to encourage businesses to invest and create jobs in the state.