Thursday, June 10, 2021

Legislature Advances Fair Share Act to 2022 Statewide Ballot

Legislature Advances Fair Share Act to 2022 Statewide Ballot

Proposed constitutional amendment would fund transportation and education investments

At a Joint Session of the Massachusetts Legislature, members of the House and Senate on Wednesday held a Constitutional Convention where they advanced an amendment to the state Constitution to provide greater investments in education and transportation funding.

The Amendment, which now goes before the people of the Commonwealth for a vote in 2022, establishes a four percent tax on annual taxable income in excess of $1 million. The revenue generated, estimated by the Department of Revenue to be as much as $2.2 billion annually, would fund repair and maintenance projects for roads, bridges or public transportation as well as funding for public education, including support for early education and childcare and public higher education.

"As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare for the Commonwealth's long-term success, we must be bold as we strive to create the future we want to see," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I'm thrilled the Fair Share Amendment has advanced, moving us one step closer to being able to make the critical investments in transportation and education that the public wants and deserves."

"Massachusetts has a bright future ahead of it and the House of Representatives is committed to a continued focus on education and transportation investments," said House Speaker Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). "Today's vote allows the Fair Share Amendment to be placed on the ballot and put before the people for a vote. This measure is one step in a multi-pronged strategy to make our Commonwealth a more equitable place to live, work and raise a family."

"When the Fair Share Amendment was first introduced in 2015, there were about 15,000 Massachusetts residents earning over $1 million a year," said Representative James O'Day (D-West Boylston), the lead House sponsor of the constitutional amendment. "Now in 2021, there are about 18,000 residents earning over $1 million a year. Clearly, there are millionaires and billionaires who can afford to pay their fair share in taxes, which will support our neighbors and local communities with investments in public education and transportation. Thank you to Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka for prioritizing the Fair Share Amendment so early in the session." 

"The Fair Share Amendment once again received strong support from legislators and, in public polling, typically receives support from more than 70% of voters in Massachusetts," said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the lead Senate sponsor of the proposal. "The reason it is so popular is that most people recognize that our wealthiest residents can afford to pay a bit more in taxes to fund investments in public education and improving our transportation infrastructure that will grow our economy, expand opportunity, and make our Commonwealth more just and equitable for all."

Should voters approve the ballot measure, the income level would be adjusted annually to reflect increases in the cost of living by the same method used to determine federal income tax brackets. This would ensure that, over time, the additional four percent tax would continue to apply only to the highest earning individuals in the Commonwealth. The tax would apply to all tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2023. 

The legislature must approve a constitutional amendment in two consecutive joint sessions before the question appears on the ballot for voter approval. The Fair Share Act was approved for a first time on June 12, 2019, in a 147-48 vote. This week's June 9, 2021, vote of 159-41 ensures the proposal will appear on the November 2022 statewide ballot.

Boston Globe coverage (subscription may be required)

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