Should the Legislature revive the push for a millionaires tax?
State senator, Winchester Democrat
Many people in Massachusetts were disappointed when the Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that the Fair Share Amendment (or “millionaires tax”) could not be on the ballot in November for voters to decide its fate.
Fortunately, we have another path we can pursue. At the start of the next legislative session in January 2019, I plan to file a legislative amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would create a 4 percent surtax on annual taxable income above $1 million and direct this new revenue toward investments in education and transportation.
This proposal would be identical to the Fair Share Amendment, but would not be subject to the same constitutional challenge that unfortunately derailed the Raise Up Massachusetts petition, since the legislative amendment process has different legal eligibility standards. With support from my legislative colleagues, it could be on the state ballot in 2022.
Income inequality is at unacceptable levels in Massachusetts and, at the same time, our transportation infrastructure is woefully inadequate and our schools are struggling to provide a quality education to every student.
This proposal would raise approximately $2 billion in new annual revenues, which would go a long way towards helping to fix crumbling roads and bridges, improving MBTA service, increasing funding for public schools, expanding access to quality early childhood education, and making higher education more affordable for students and families.
It is also the only way to raise revenue that would make our tax system fairer and more progressive, rather than increasing taxes on middle income families who cannot afford to pay more.
There is scant evidence that enacting a millionaires tax will lead to millionaires fleeing from Massachusetts. Tax policy is only one of many different factors that people consider when deciding where to live, work, and raise their family.
Numerous polls have indicated overwhelming public support for this proposal, and when lawmakers previously voted on the Fair Share Amendment, it received 70 percent support in the House and Senate.
Adopting the millionaires tax is the best way to make our tax system fairer and pursue investments that are critical to the future of our Commonwealth.
Robert G. Bradford
President, North Shore Chamber of Commerce
My organization, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, applauds the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to reject the Millionaires Tax initiative petition that would have appeared on the November state ballot. The decision was made following a lawsuit in opposition brought forward by a coalition that included several business organizations and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association.
The initiative petition would have taxed individuals on any income earned above $1 million to pay for education and transportation. The millionaires tax was expected to raise $2 billion a year.
The board of directors of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose the Millionaires Tax. The board felt, as I do, that added taxes should be vetted in the House and Senate and not at the ballot box.
I feel that individuals and businesses should be rewarded for their success, not punished. Increased income leads to opportunities for purchasing, investing, and maintaining a strong economy and leads to a larger tax base in Massachusetts. Raising taxes on millionaires will only damper the entrepreneurial spirit that is critical to our success as a society.
The board also felt that the tax on the wealthy was unfair and would drive successful businesses owned by a single individual into lower tax states like New Hampshire. To paraphrase the late US Senator Paul Tsongas from Lowell, we must always be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Raising taxes will stall growth and investment and weaken economic development efforts throughout the state, which would certainly be in no one’s interests in Massachusetts.
Under no circumstance should the Legislature revive the effort to pass a Millionaires Tax. Instead, the state government should look to find ways to cut unnecessary expenses and live within the budget. Businesses and individuals are expected to operate within this principle - why shouldn’t government as well?
If this proposal is revisited, my organization will work even harder with statewide business groups to defeat it. We must not follow the bad example set by states like New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, who are penalizing success and risking the loss of the wealthiest of their populations.
(This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)