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Money starts to flow into ‘millionaires tax’ ballot fight

Putnam’s Reynolds gives $200K to fight so-called millionaires tax in Mass., while eBay founder Omidyar donates $100K in support.

Campaigns for and against the so-called millionaires tax ramped up fund-raising last year ahead of a vote in November, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state this week.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The battle lines are being drawn over a proposed tax hike on high earners, with the chief executive of a prominent Boston fund company putting down $200,000 to help the opposition, and proponents receiving $100,000 from a firm associated with the billionaire who founded eBay.

The Fair Share Amendment, also known as the millionaires tax, could raise $1 billion to $2 billion a year for education and transportation. Supporters with the union-backed Raise Up Massachusetts coalition say the proposal, which would add a 4-percentage-point surcharge on the income tax rate for earnings above $1 million, would help make the state’s tax structure more equitable. Opponents say the tax increase, which regularly garners strong voter support in polls, will penalize small-business owners and discourage entrepreneurship.

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Business groups blocked an earlier version at the Supreme Judicial Court in 2018, but this time the proposed constitutional amendment is headed for a statewide vote in November.

For that reason, opponents funneled about $435,000 to the newly formed Coalition for a Strong Massachusetts Economy in late 2021. Several business groups have signaled plans to oppose it again in 2022, including Associated Industries of Massachusetts; chief executive John Regan told his group’s members on Friday that AIM is rejoining the fight, saying the surcharge would discourage business formation at a time when the state needs it the most.

Putnam Investments CEO Bob Reynolds gave $200,000 to the cause, making him the biggest donor to the opposition campaign as of Dec. 31, according to campaign finance documents filed with the state on Thursday. He said he’s concerned the surcharge could nick as many as 65,000 taxpayers over a nine-year period.

“If implemented, the Fair Share Amendment would have wide-ranging negative impact on thousands of small businesses, retirees, home sellers, and others — many as a result of a one-time event,” Reynolds said in a statement. “In addition, the Fair Share Amendment would likely be an economic drag on the state and send a signal that Massachusetts is not a business-friendly destination.”

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Other big donors included real estate investor Nino Micozzi, who gave $100,000. Data center owner Jeffrey Markley kicked in $50,000, and venture capitalist Mark Casady gave $25,000. National Development managing partner Brian Kavoogian, one of three businessmen who made $10,000 donations last month, said he worries the proposal would lead to job and population losses, including to income-tax-free New Hampshire.

The biggest donation to Raise Up, which received $260,000 in 2021, came from a businessperson as well — albeit one from out-of-state. Raise Up received $100,000 in October from Omidyar Network, a California-based philanthropic investment firm affiliated with eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Other large gifts came from union groups such as the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, which contributed $65,000, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which donated $45,000. The campaign’s biggest expense last year was the nearly $150,000 it spent with Field First, a Boston-based community organizing firm.

“Raise Up has built an unprecedented grass roots organization that has won historic victories for the state,” spokesman Steve Crawford said. “We’re focused on speaking to voters in communities where they live. What we’re hearing is that people understand that recovering from the COVID pandemic is going to take many years of significant state investment, [including] fixing our schools, fixing our roads.”

The opponents will highlight the impact on small businesses, including those whose profits get taxed as personal income or whose owners might want to sell. That impact is why Carleton Burr, of Burr Brothers Boats in Marion, gave $1,000 and spoke at a Mass. Fiscal Alliance virtual event on Thursday.

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“If my family ever decides to sell this boatyard, having put our life into it, we will be paying an extra 4 percent, that will reduce our retirement income,” Burr said. “I don’t think people realize the extent to which this tax is a penalty to small business.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.