AGAWAM – Mass Senior Action and Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts hosted a presentation for an amendment to the state constitution, which would tax an additional 4 percent to taxable income over $1 million.
The group organizing the movement, Raise Up Massachusetts, is aiming to get the amendment on the ballot for the November 2018 election and is in the process of collecting signatures.
Northeastern University Law Professor Peer Enrich presented the “Agawam Training” on Oct. 20.
Enrich said this amendment would affect less than 1 percent of Massachusetts households but raise about $1.9 billion in revenue for the state. The revenue would be only be used for education and transportation.
The bottom 99 percent of taxpayers in Massachusetts pay approximately 9.4 percent income tax, while the top 1 percent pays 6.5 percent. The Fair Share Amendment, Enrich said, would fix this disparity, and if implemented, the top 1 percent would pay 8 percent.
This would not entirely close the gap because only the top half of 1 percent would be affected, and the amendment would only additionally tax the income that exceeds $1 million. Of the three million households in the state, the Fair Share Amendment would impact 14,000.
“It doesn’t quite solve the problem, but it helps substantially,” Enrich said.
The Fair Share Amendment is necessary, Enrich said, because there are major flaws with the Massachusetts tax system, including a “steady erosion of state funding.” He said that because of a 23 percent tax decrease since 1977, the second most of any state, Massachusetts is no longer able to generate enough revenue to provide services for its residents.
It was decided that the revenue would benefit the repair and maintenance of transportation and education because they are “generally acknowledged to be things critical to allow for opportunity and success,” Enrich said.
The group is working towards an amendment rather than a new law because a clause in the constitution does not allow graduated tax rates on income, Enrich said. Five previous attempts to eliminate the clause have failed, and Enrich said this would limit the Legislature’s involvement and make voters more comfortable.
“People still don’t want to give broad tax authority to the Legislature,” Enrich said. “We’re simply writing an additional layer of tax into the Constitution. The Legislature will be able to decide how it’s allocated … through various line items.”
The movement has already collected more than 50,000 signatures and must have a total of 120,000 turned into city and town clerks across the Commonwealth on Nov. 18.
If the necessary signatures are collected and certified, two constitutional conventions would need to be called in the spring of 2016 and after the new Legislature takes over in the spring of 2017. It must receive a vote of 25 percent in a joint session to be put on the November 2018 ballot.