Advocates have launched a new campaign for a so-called “millionaires tax” in Massachusetts.
Grassroots local organizing has already started in anticipation that a proposed constitutional amendment creating a surtax on high-income earners will be on the ballot in November 2022.
"We're calling on the legislature to act one more time and put the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot and let the people vote," said Pablo Ruiz, deputy director of the SEIU State Council, and one of the leaders of Raise Up Massachusetts – a coalition of labor unions, student organizations, and religious groups.
" Today a few multimillionaires are hoarding their wealth," Ruiz said at a press conference this week to announce the launch of the public campaign to pass the amendment.
Other speakers highlighted the need for the additional revenue the proposal would raise that would go for public education, repairing roads and bridges and improving public transportation.
Sabrina Davis, an organizer with Bus Riders United, spoke about growing up poor and her reliance on public transportation in Fall River, where most of the buses stopped running in the evening.
"Lack of quality public transportation limits the opportunities of those who depend on it," Davis said. "It serves as barriers to better jobs and going to college."
The proposal is to put a 4 percent surtax on the portion of an individual’s income that exceeds $1 million. The income threshold would be adjusted annually for inflation. The money raised, estimated at about $2 billion annually, would be earmarked for investments in education and transportation.
Opponents warn the income surtax will trigger an exodus from the state of wealthy business-owners, hurting the state’s economy, and resulting in lower tax collections.
In 2019, the Democratic-controlled legislature took the first step toward putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot by approving it by a 146-48 vote during a joint session.
A second approval is required during the current 2021-22 legislative session to put the proposal before the voters on the November 2022 ballot.
The business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation called on lawmakers to delay voting on the initiative in order to get a better sense of how federal tax and spending changes will impact Massachusetts.
State Senator Jason Lewis – one of the co-sponsors of the proposed amendment – said he expects a vote in the “not too distant future.”
" All of the conversations that I've been having very recently with my Senate colleagues including the Senate president is that the support and enthusiasm for the Fair Share Amendement is as strong as ever and I am very confident the House and Senate will move forward and take that final vote," Lewis said.
Public opinion polls have consistently found overwhelming support for the millionaires tax.
An earlier campaign to vote it into law got derailed when the Supreme Judicial Court knocked it off the 2018 ballot following a challenge by several business-backed organizations.
Advocates are following a different process to get the proposal to the ballot this time that they say will remove any legal impediment.