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Fair Share Amendment advocates rally at Berkshire Community College

Berkshire County legislators John Barrett, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Smitty Pignatelli, and Adam Hinds attend the Fair Share Amendment rally at Berkshire Community College.
Josh Landes
Berkshire County legislators John Barrett, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Smitty Pignatelli, and Adam Hinds attend the Fair Share Amendment rally at Berkshire Community College.

Supporters of a Massachusetts ballot question that would levy a new 4% tax on all income above $1 million to fund public education and infrastructure held a rally in Pittsfield Monday.

The event was held at Berkshire Community College by Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community organizations, unions, and faith-based groups that has fought for the Fair Share Amendment since 2015. The group says the new surcharge would only impact 0.6% of Massachusetts households while bringing in around $2 billion a year.

“If you're a small business owner and the small business earns more than a million dollars, this doesn't apply to that. It's if the individual in one year earns more than a million dollars, the amount above the million dollars gets that 4% surcharge," said 3rd Berkshire District State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier. She says the measure would benefit public transit in western Massachusetts.

“West-East rail is critically important for growing the Berkshires, the [regional transit authorities] are critically important, the economic development of this region, the Valley Flyer, the Berkshire Flyer- All these things we need to be connected by rail, that money is going to go to there,” said Farley-Bouvier.

She was joined by fellow Democrat and State Senator Adam Hinds, who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor.

“You've probably heard some of the numbers around how inequality has grown in Massachusetts in recent decades," said Hinds. "It's kind of this dynamic of, from World War II to the 70s, you kind of saw everyone heading on an upward trajectory together. And then in the 70s, that shifts, and the top 1%, the annual income is going up 10 times the rate of the bottom 99%. And that's a problem. That's a huge problem for a lot of reasons. One is because we know the impact of income inequality, and especially kids growing up in a low-income household, we know that that means their lifelong earnings are going to be lower than others, their educational attainment is impacted, their health outcomes are impacted. All because we let income inequality get out of hand.”

“It should be a right of every resident of this commonwealth to be able to go to a public college and university and graduate debt free," said Massachusetts Teachers Association Vice President and UMass Amherst architecture professor Max Page. "Four miles away, Pittsfield High School, you go for free, as we all think we should. Between June of graduating and then three months later, come to Berkshire Community College and have to pay thousands of dollars of living and tuition and fees- It's just wrong,” Page said.

“Our public colleges’ inadequate budgets forced them to engage in competition for funds. Could you ever imagine Harvard and Yale, or Williams College and Amherst College, having to argue for their operating budgets? Of course you can't," said former BCC coordinator of assessment and testing and adjunct psychology instructor Liz Recko-Morrison. “Our community colleges work doggedly to address the needs of first generation students, recent immigrants, the workforce, and those who may be trying to re-enter education by earning an alternative high school credential. I've seen the divisiveness that occurs when all the sectors of higher education, and really education as a whole, must fight to receive their share of inadequate funding. Our communities, our faculty and professional staff, but most of all, our students suffer.”

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, so sole proprietors, S corps, those kind of small businesses are really the ones that are going to get hit with this tax and it's only because of the way they have organized their business," said Creed. "They are certainly not millionaires. So we really think this is more of a middle class tax than it is a wealthy tax.”

The Pittsfield City Council endorsed the Fair Share Amendment in March. Voters will go to the polls to decide the measure on November 8th.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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