IBerkshires: Brittany Polito
Mar 23, 2022
The City Council on Tuesday voted to endorse a resolution supporting the Fair Share Amendment, which imposes a 4 percent surcharge on earnings past the first $1 million to support transportation and education.
Pittsfield City Council Supports the Fair Share Amendment
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday voted to endorse a resolution supporting the Fair Share Amendment, which imposes a 4 percent surcharge on earnings past the first $1 million to support transportation and education.
The amendment, which is expected to generate about $2 billion yearly, will be on the ballot for state voters in November. Frank Farkas of the Berkshire Democratic Brigades presented the resolution to the council. "I'm part of a group called the Berkshire Fair Share Committee, which has been speaking out about the need to pass the Fair Share Amendment this coming November, and has in the process gathered over 60 signatories representing every ward in Pittsfield in support of the fair share resolution you will be considering tonight," he explained. "Surprisingly, a lot of people have not yet heard of the Fair Share Amendment and those who have only the vaguest notion of what it promises to deliver to the commonwealth so let's work hard to make the case and bring fair share to people's attentions." Farkas added that it is a "golden opportunity" to put the commonwealth on a more stable and sustainable footing. He outlined the underfunded areas that could be greatly aided by the funds including the restoration of crumbling roads and bridges and bringing down the cost f community colleges. The Fair Share Amendment does all of this without asking 99 percent of the state to sacrifice more economically, Farkas said, and accomplishes that by introducing an element of progressive taxation in the state that has a flat tax rate despite its reputation as the "cradle of democracy." A number of residents spoke in support of the resolution during open microphone.
Former educator and current member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority Advisory Board Sheila Irvin said she has seen the effects of budget shortfalls and discontinued grants in the consistency of educational programming as well as the inadequacy of federal funding to meet the transportation needs for local municipalities.
She pointed to State Auditor Suzanne Bump's October 2021 report, Public Infrastructure in Western Massachusetts: A Critical Need for Regional Investment and Revitalization, which indicates that Western Mass communities don't have the tools to develop needed public infrastructure and recommends an increase in Chapter 90 funding.
"At a time when the cost of driving and maintaining automobiles is becoming prohibitive for many in our community, we need funds to creatively expand models of public transportation," Irvin said.
Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick was the lone vote in opposition of supporting the resolution because he questioned if it was fair and if the funds would actually reach Western Mass.
"Is it good policy in general, when wanting to raise public money to find a demographic that you think ought to pay it?" he said.
Kronick also expressed that he believes there are under 20 people who make over $1 million per year and rhetorically asked if the money would largely be spent in Boston.
The Boston Globe reported in 2020 that there were 18,205 millionaires in the state by income, up 12.5 percent from the year before. There were 25 in Williamstown and 21 in Pittsfield filing for 2016, according to data from the state Department of Revenue, and Boston had the highest at 2,158.
Councilor at Large Peter White spoke in support of the Fair Share Amendment. "This is a way that we could bring in more money for education, for infrastructure for transportation without directly taxing, I think, most of our citizens," he said.
Farkas also reported that there will be a Berkshire Fair Share kickoff on April 4 at Berkshire Community College.