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Advocates for Massachusetts 'millionaires' tax' launch statewide campaign

Paul Tuthill | WAMC Northeast Public Radio

May 11, 2022

Advocates formally launched a campaign Wednesday to pass a ballot question in Massachusetts this November that would put a 4 percent surtax on household incomes topping $1 million.

Advocates for Massachusetts 'millionaires' tax' launch statewide campaign

At press conference they push back on claims by opponents of the ballot question

Advocates formally launched a campaign Wednesday to pass a ballot question in Massachusetts this November that would put a 4 percent surtax on household incomes topping $1 million.

A coalition of labor unions, social justice advocates, educators, transit advocates, and faith leaders vow to work tirelessly over the next six months to bring over the finish line a campaign that began almost a decade ago to amend the state constitution to permit a higher tax rate on the state’s highest income-earners.

Jeron Mariani, the campaign manager for the Fair Share Amendment ballot campaign, said a new website has debuted and he announced plans for grassroots door-knocking.

“While the rich got richer during the COVID-19 pandemic, working people and small businesses struggled and for that reason we’re excited to kick off the Fair Share Amendment campaign,” he said. If approved by voters in November, the constitutional amendment would put a 4 percent surtax on income that exceeds $1 million and dedicate the additional revenue to public education and transportation. The campaign now estimates it would bring in $1.3 billion a year.

At the campaign kickoff virtual press conference Wednesday, speakers promoted the need for higher spending on schools and public transportation in low-income communities such as Lawrence and Fall River.

Rabbi Liza Stern of Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge, said there is a moral case for passing the ballot question.

“For people who are blessed with the ability to make more than $1 million, it is an opportunity for them to do this uniquely human thing which is help create a strong community,” Stern said.

The press conference also tried to rebut a couple of arguments against the so-called millionaires’ tax. Khrystian King, a City Councilor in Worcester, said the rich will not flee Massachusetts if the question passes.

“If they were going to move, they would have moved a long time ago,” he said. "And, Gerly Adrien, owner of Tipping Cow Ice Cream in Somerville and Boston, said small business-owners will not be hit with a higher tax bill if the amendment is approved. “For my fellow small business owners; did you make $1 million last year in income – not your revenue but your income -- your personal income? No,” said Adrien. “The people who did make $1 million in income most likely paid less in taxes than you.”

However, in an interview with WAMC in March, Springfield Regional Chamber President Nancy Creed said the amendment would negatively impact small business owners.

“Based on how they have created their organizations – sole proprietors, s-corps – those kind of small businesses are the ones that are really going to get it.” Creed said. “They are certainly not millionaires, so this is more of a middle class tax than a wealthy tax.”

Business-backed groups, who succeeded four years ago in getting the Fair Share Amendment knocked off the 2018 state ballot, are back in court complaining about the wording approved by the state Attorney General’s office to summarize the question on this year’s ballot. The opponents say the phrase “subject to appropriation by the legislature” is misleading to voters.

Andrew Farnitano, a spokesman for the Fair Share campaign said the challenge has no merit. “Dedicating the funding from the Fair Share Amendment in the text of the constitution is the strongest possible way to ensure it goes to transportation and public education,” he said. “It is an iron-clad declaration that the money must be spent on those two areas.”

The campaign is also touting endorsements from elected government bodies across Massachusetts including city councils in Springfield and Pittsfield.

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