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Springfield City Council endorses Massachusetts ballot question on 'millionaire's tax'

Springfield City Hall
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
Springfield City Hall at night.

Resolution backing Fair Share Amendment passes unanimously

The City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts has endorsed the so-called Fair Share Amendment that will be on the state election ballot this year. The vote puts the Councilors at odds with the local business community.

The Springfield City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution supporting the question on the ballot that if approved by voters in November would amend the state constitution to add a 4 percent surtax on income that exceeds $1 million.

City Councilor Jesse Lederman introduced the resolution. Urging his colleagues to support it, he said the additional tax money that would be collected by the state could be used to lower the costs to attend a four-year public college, improve road safety, build east-west passenger rail, and more.

“These investments will take resources and we know working families are already being asked to pay too much and receive too little in return,” Lederman said.

He said cities like Springfield have been short-changed when it comes to state spending on public resources.

“At the same time, millionaires and billionaires continue to benefit from these same resources while enjoying record profits from our labor and expenses,” Lederman said. “It is time to balance the scales in the Commonwealth and ensure the wealthiest among us pay their fair share toward investing in the public resources that are foundational to the success of our communities.”

The proposed amendment is the work of a coalition of labor unions, faith-based organizations and social-justice advocates that has campaigned for almost eight years to get it on the ballot. Business groups, for the most part, have lined up against it.

A spokesperson for the campaign said five city councils and five school committees have passed resolutions of support with more in the works. The Pittsfield City Council voted last month to endorse it.

Proponents tout the additional money as a boon for education and transportation. Opponents say the pitch is disingenuous because it is ultimately up to the state legislature to decide how tax revenue gets spent.

In 2015, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue estimated the surtax would bring in an additional $2 billion annually. The proposed amendment includes an annual adjustment for inflation.

During the public comment time at Monday’s City Council meeting, Jacqueline Velez, a mother of two and an organizer with Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, urged support for the resolution.

“College could be a lot more affordable to my daughter, who recently made it to The National Honor Society and wants to pursue a four-year degree,” Valez said. “As a single mom, you can imagine how hard that is.”

City Councilor Kateri Walsh said she supported the resolution because she was moved by what she heard during the public speak-out.

“New revenues that would come in would improve the quality of life for so many people who work hard for the city of Springfield and don’t often get a return on what they do,” Walsh said.

The Springfield Regional Chamber is among the business associations opposed to the ballot question. Chamber President Nancy Creed said it is bad public policy.

“We want to make sure that does not pass,” Creed said. “To change the constitution is not how to change tax policy.”

Past efforts to amend the state constitution to introduce a graduated income tax to Massachusetts have met with resounding defeat. Public opinion polls have shown strong support for this current initiative.