The opponents of what’s known as the “millionaires tax” just had their most productive two weeks of fund-raising, collecting some $3.7 million largely from business executives.
This marked the first reporting period in which the Coalition to Stop the Tax Hike Amendment outpaced the Fair Share Massachusetts committee, which supports the income tax surcharge that will go before voters next month.
Fair Share raised nearly $3.2 million over the same two weeks, primarily from the National Education Association. In all, Fair Share has raised $21 million so far this year, well ahead of the opponents’ $13 million.
Most of the money is being spent to flood the airwaves with ads to persuade voters about Question 1 ahead of next month’s statewide vote. The ballot question would hit any earnings over $1 million with a 9 percent income tax rate, while keeping earnings below that threshold at the state’s standard 5-percent income tax. Question 1′s stated goal is to raise money — at least $1.3 billion annually — for transportation and education. Estimates show around 20,000 taxpayers would be affected in any given year, though many would be one-time payers with windfalls from selling a business or real estate.
Proponents say Question 1 creates a more equitable tax structure and helps pay for badly needed fixes to schools and roads, while opponents say it will unfairly hurt small businesses and harm the state’s economic competitiveness.
The fund-raising part of the battle has largely shaped up to be a fight between business leaders and teachers’ unions. The latest reports, filed on Thursday, showed that wrestling match continues.
Leading the donations in the past two weeks was a $1 million gift from New Balance chairman Jim Davis, on top of $1 million he gave in February. Paul Edgerley, senior advisor for Bain Capital and cofounder of VantEdge Partners, and Sandy Edgerley, philanthropist and cofounder of the Boston social club ‘Quin House, also each gave $500,000 — their second such gifts this year.
Other big donors came from the investment world: Brad Bloom, cofounder of private equity firm Berkshire Partners ($250,000), John Connaughton, co-managing partner of Bain Capital ($100,000), Arthur S. Demoulas of Ten Mountain Capital ($100,000), and Daniel Revers, managing founder of private equity firm ArcLight Capital Partners ($100,000).
The opponents’ donations have been dominated by gifts from the private equity, development, and construction industries. Only a few high-tech and biotech leaders have contributed, including, most recently, Analog Devices cofounder Ray Stata ($50,000, on top of $100,000 in August) and Rapid7 chief executive Corey Thomas ($10,000).
“What’s notable about the opposition’s donor list is who’s missing,” Fair Share spokesman Steve Crawford said in an e-mail. “Big names in banking, insurance, high tech, and biotech have simply avoided their campaign. Most of their funding comes from just seven of the richest people in the state.”
On the Fair Share side, the National Education Association paid much of the freight in the past two weeks, kicking in $2.5 million on top of $4.5 million that it already gave this year. The Massachusetts Teachers Association has donated $10 million in 2022 to the cause, but did not contribute in the past two weeks. Former attorney general candidate Shannon Liss-Riordan made the biggest personal contribution, $100,000, in the latest reporting period; IDG chief executive Mohamad Ali made the biggest personal gift, also $100,000, in the previous reporting period earlier in the month.
Dan Cence, spokesman for the anti-tax hike group, provided a statement accusing the Fair Share campaign of being “funded by organized labor ... to fill their coffers.” Cence said his coalition continues to gain momentum as people realize Question 1 represents a “massive tax hike” at a time when the state has an unprecedented budget surplus.
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.