Renewed push for ‘millionaire tax’ begins in Massachusetts
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers demonstrated strong support Wednesday for a new version of a proposal to raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents and use the money to pay for education and transportation improvements.
A procedural vote to advance the so-called “millionaire tax” was easily approved 156-37 during a joint session of the Democratic-controlled Massachusetts Legislature.
The proposed constitutional amendment would impose a surtax of 4% on any portion of an individual’s annual income exceeding $1 million. The measure calls for the estimated $2 billion in proceeds from the tax to be earmarked for education and transportation.
There was no debate prior to the procedural, largely party line vote. The constitutional convention is scheduled to meet again in June, when a further vote could be taken.
“I think it’s important to many of the legislators and to residents of the commonwealth to put this on the ballot,” said Senate President Karen Spilka, who backs the amendment.
The millionaire tax — supporters also call it the “fair share amendment” — nearly reached voters last year, before the state’s highest court ruled it violated constitutional restrictions on citizen-initiated petitions. To get around the court’s concerns, supporters this time eschewed the process of gathering voter signatures in favor of using a separate, legislative process to amend the constitution.
Still, the earliest the amendment could be ratified by voters is 2022.
The state’s constitution stipulates a uniform tax on income, also known as a flat tax, so any measure that proposes to treat one group of taxpayers differently than others requires a change to the constitution.
Several business groups, including the Massachusetts High Technology Council, oppose the surtax, arguing it could discourage entrepreneurs looking to build successful companies in the state.
“Other states are turning away from ‘Millionaires Taxes’ and other anti-competitive tax proposals that support state spending with overly-narrow and often volatile tax bases,” the council’s president, Christopher Anderson, wrote in a letter to legislators Wednesday. “Many in Massachusetts, however, continue to pursue permanent and anti-competitive tax policies, notwithstanding clear evidence that they are unwise and unnecessary.”