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The Argument

The Argument: Should Massachusetts impose an additional tax on income above $1 million?

Read two views and vote in our online poll.


Joni Cederholm

Education support professional, Weymouth Public Schools

Joni Cederholm

The Fair Share Amendment, Question 1 on the November ballot, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make our tax system fairer — and to invest in our public schools and colleges while making our roads and bridges safer.

Question 1 would create a 4 percent tax on annual income above $1 million and constitutionally dedicate the funds to transportation and public education. Only people who earn more than $1 million annually will pay more; 99 percent of us won’t pay an additional penny.

As an education support professional in Weymouth, I see how students need more one-to-one help to get back on track from the disruption of COVID-19. But due to a lack of funding, we have major staff shortages in our public schools. And despite working as an ESP for 28 years, I earn only $20.25 an hour — just two-thirds of a living wage.

Question 1 will allow us to invest in our public schools and colleges to ensure all students have access to a well-rounded education, from prekindergarten through college. It will help fix neglected and structurally dangerous bridges and roads and upgrade our public transportation infrastructure.


Billionaire-backed opponents of Question 1 seek to confuse voters to avoid paying their fair share. But don’t fall for their misinformation: Question 1 isn’t a tax on businesses, and doesn’t apply to any business revenues. And only 1 percent of homes in Massachusetts sell for enough to be affected by Question 1 — roughly 895 of the 100,000 homes sold last year would trigger the tax.

The bottom line: Only those earning more than $1 million in personal income in a single year will pay more. And the tax only applies to the amount of their income over $1 million. The top 1 percent of taxpayers — who currently pay less of their income in taxes than the rest of us — can afford to pay a little more to improve our schools, colleges, roads, and bridges.


And because Question 1 would be written into the state Constitution, the Legislature would be constitutionally required to spend this new money — an estimated $2 billion every year — only on transportation and public education.

With Question 1, we have an opportunity to grow our economy and make it work for everyone.


Peter Forman

President and CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce; Plymouth resident

Peter Forman

The political decisions that can be most harmful are the ones that cannot easily be corrected.

The “millionaires tax” proposal on the November ballot is an amendment to the state’s Constitution. It can only be repealed or amended by a future amendment — a process that can take many years.

Contrary to some claims, the proposed amendment does not guarantee that the higher taxes will be spent on education and transportation. The language makes clear it is not legally binding on future Legislatures. Supporters may hope continued political pressure will force legislators to spend it on those programs, but there’s no certainty they will do so. The only thing guaranteed is higher taxes on people earning more than $1 million.

An independent evaluation from the nonpartisan Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University estimates that roughly half the people who will pay are not the super-rich pulling in fortunes every year. This tax will hit people who have incomes over $1 million in just one year. These one-time high earners can hit the mark by selling a long-held security, a lifetime home that has appreciated, or a small business that has taken years or decades to grow.


Moreover, this is not merely a “small” 4 percent tax on income over $1 million. It is 4 percent more, on top of the regular income tax. For those affected taxpayers, a tax rate of 9 percent on anything over $1 million is an 80 percent increase over the current rate of 5 percent.

Other states have tried similar “tax the rich” laws and it has motivated some people to leave those states. How many people and how much money went with them can be debated but it is clear: Money moves.

The Center for State Policy Analysis has estimated that as much as 35 percent of the estimated revenue from the tax will be avoided by people leaving the state or changing some of their decisions as investors and business owners.

In a post-COVID world when more people can choose to live anywhere, given the experience of other states with similar proposals and the near political impossibility of correcting a mistaken constitutional amendment, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce believes this proposal is a bad bet for our future.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.

This is not a scientific survey. Please only vote once.