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Business Groups Fight ’18 Ballot Question

Dec 12, 2017 | Boston Herald

By Bob McGovern

Business groups fighting to block the so-called millionaire tax from next year’s statewide ballot say the proposed constitutional amendment is “truly radical” and should not go to the voters, according to a brief filed with the state’s highest court.

“Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to exclude from the 2018 ballot an initiative petition that threatens to undermine our representative system of government and our separation of powers, and the long-standing consensus that the Legislature must maintain ultimate control over public finances,” wrote Kevin Martin, an attorney representing the businesses.

The proposal, which is slated to be on the statewide ballot in November, would impose a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million.  The money raised through the tax would go into education and transportation programs.

Christopher Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, Christopher Carlozzi, the Massachusetts director of the National Federation of Independent Business, and others have asked the Supreme Judicial Court to boot the proposed amendment.

Their attorneys argue that the state constitution forbids initiative petitions from being “used to embed spending earmarks in the Constitution.”

“Allowing this Initiative on the ballot would undermine the Legislature’s authority with respect to both spending and taxes in one fell swoop, setting the stage for public finances to be determined not in the deliberative legislative process, but in the free-for-all of special interest-fueled initiative petitions,” Martin wrote.

Martin also argues that the initiative improperly combines unrelated subjects by forcing money raised through the tax to be spent only on education and transportation.

“The Initiative is truly radical,” he wrote.

According to Martin’s brief, the state constitution currently mandates a flat income tax rate, and voters resoundingly tossed bids to authorize a graduated income tax in 1962, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1994.

State Attorney General Maura Healey certified the 2018 question and is expected to defend it when the case goes before the SJC on Feb. 5.

“We believe our office made the right call in certifying this question in accordance with the constitutional requirements,” Healey spokeswoman Emily Snyder said in a statement.  “We look forward to defending this decision in court.”

In a statement, Anderson said the plaintiffs “look forward to the SJC’s thoughtful consideration of these critical arguments, and continuing the conversation when oral arguments occur in February.”

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