BOSTON-Today the Massachusetts legislature voted 135 to 57 to advance the Fair Share constitutional amendment to the next joint session during the 2017-2018 legislative session. The amendment would assess an additional 4% surtax on individual annual income over one million dollars, and would require the legislature to allocate the increased revenue solely on education and transportation needs.
“Today’s vote marks the first step in changing our tax code to a more equitable and fair system to fund our serious needs in transportation infrastructure and education. The business leaders, academics, and policy makers that I have met with across the Commonwealth all agree that building our education system for the jobs of the future and making critical investments in our transportation infrastructure will provide the building blocks to maintain a strong, vibrant economy,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “I hope the voters understand that this amendment benefits all Massachusetts residents.”
The amendment specifically states that the 4% income tax will only apply to individual annual income starting at $1 million. Any income less that $1 million would be taxed at the current state income tax rate of 5.1%. According to the Department of Revenue, the proposed amendment would affect approximately 14,000 Massachusetts residents and will raise between $1.4 and $2.2 billion annually, earmarked specifically for education and transportation.
"The best way to build a strong economy for all is to focus on the infrastructure that allows prosperity to happen: physical infrastructure like roads and transit, and the human infrastructure of quality education--from early education to higher education,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. We have to pay for the things we say we believe in, and we should do it in a way that's smart and that's fair."
Massachusetts has fundamental needs in both transportation infrastructure and education. 446 bridges in Massachusetts are “structurally deficient,” meaning they have “major deterioration, cracks, or other flaws that reduce [the] ability to support vehicles,” and an estimated $14.4 billion of bridge repairs are needed.
“The reality is that the Commonwealth is billions of dollars away from what is truly needed to improve and provide a state-of-the-art, 21st century transportation system that connects employees to jobs, students to institutions of higher education, and elders and others to medical appointments,” said Senator Tom McGee (D-Lynn) Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “Today’s vote to advance an alternative solution to raising revenue for transportation and education is a step in the right direction.”
In addition, the rising cost of college education has hindered the ability of younger generations to afford a college education without exorbitant amounts of student debt. Before 1987, a student working a minimum wage job could pay their way through UMass Amherst without any debt. Today, the average UMass Amherst student who takes out student loans to pay for school is graduating with over $30,000 in student debt, and the average graduate of Bridgewater State with loans leaves school with over $32,000 in student debt.
Under the Massachusetts constitution a proposed constitutional amendment must be approved by one quarter of all elected members of the legislature, which is currently be 50 votes. The legislature must approve the amendment in two consecutive joint sessions, which happen during each two year legislative session, before the question appears on the ballot for voter approval. With today’s vote, the amendment moves to the next join session before being placed on the ballot in 2018.