SJC Should Spike Proposed Millionaires

By Jeff Jacoby

Sometime this spring, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will decide whether the so-called Fair Share Amendment can appear on the state ballot in November. The proposal would amend the Commonwealth’s constitution, which for more than 100 years has decreed that income may be taxed only at a uniform rate.  If approved, the initiative would subject anyone with more than $1 million in income to a surtax 4 percentage points higher than the state’s regular income tax rate of 5.1 percent.  The tax on million-dollar-plus incomes would thus rise to 9.1 percent — a prodigious 80 percent increase in the marginal tax rate.

Left-wing advocates have long resented the flat-rate income tax. They’ve repeatedly tried to get voters to approve an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution doing away with it.  Five times they have sponsored ballot initiatives to open the door to graduated tax rates.  Five times voters have said no.

The latest effort, spearheaded by a coalition of labor unions and progressive activists called Raise Up Massachusetts, comes with two twists. Continue reading

Editorial: Defining ‘Related’ is Million-Dollar Question

By Boston Herald Editorial Staff

“Whether to amend the Constitution so we have a graduated income tax is an extraordinary public policy question,” said Kevin Martin, attorney for the plaintiffs.  “It’s an independent public policy issue which deserves independent consideration by the voters of the commonwealth.”

Supporters of the proposed “Millionaire’s Tax” have been clear on their goals.  They want the wealthy to contribute even more of their earnings to the state treasury.  They want more money for education. They want more money for transportation.

That they lumped all of these hopes and dreams into a single constitutional amendment, set to go before voters in November, may be what ultimately sinks this proposal.

In oral arguments before the state’s highest court yesterday, a lawyer for five business groups suing to disqualify the question from the ballot made a compelling case that, as conceived and as written, the proposed amendment fails the constitutional test.

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Judges Scrutinize Income Tax Surcharge

By Jon Chesto

If the business groups challenging the millionaires tax win their legal battle to block the ballot question, they might have the now-defunct greyhound industry to thank.

That’s because the Supreme Judicial Court justices who heard arguments for and against the question today zeroed in one aspect — the “relatedness issue.”  They pointed to earlier precedents by invoking memories of a 2006 ballot question to end greyhound racing as well as one they nixed in 2016 involving classroom curriculums and testing.

The “millionaires tax” would increase the income tax on any earnings above $1 million from 5.1 percent to 9.1 percent, based on today’s rate, and direct the extra funds to transportation and schools.  As much as $2 billion a year is on the line.
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Justices Weigh Bid to Derail Income Surtax Ballot Proposal

By Andy Metzger

Supporters of a constitutional amendment to tax only the highest earners in Massachusetts, generating funds for education and transportation, encountered some skeptical Supreme Judicial Court justices on Tuesday who questioned the constitutionality of the proposal.

Initiative petitions must only contain subjects that are “related or which are mutually dependent,” according to the state Constitution, and the justices of the state’s highest court spent much of their Tuesday morning questioning whether the proposed ballot question meets that requirement.

“You’re connecting a progressive income tax to paying for education and transportation,” Justice Scott Kafker told Kate Cook, an attorney for proponents of the so-called Fair Share Amendment.  “Those seem to be three separate major policy decisions.”

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SJC Justices Question Design of Millionaires Tax Proposal

By Greg Ryan

The state’s highest court weighed Tuesday on whether the proposed “millionaires’ tax” should be allowed to go before voters later this year, with multiple justices questioning if the different parts of the proposal are related enough to pass constitutional muster.

The leaders of five of the state’s business advocacy groups are challenging the measure before the Supreme Judicial Court.  The proposal would impose an additional 4 percent surtax on Massachusetts residents making $1 million or more annually.  The revenue from the tax is supposed to fund two items only, education and transportation.  Opponents argue that higher taxes will scare away businesses, though supporters counter that better schools and transit will improve the Bay State’s business climate.

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High Court to Hear Challenge to Millionaire Tax Question

By the Associated Press

“It is not about whether creating a new graduated income tax is good public policy or bad public policy,” said Christopher Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council.

Opponents of a so-called “millionaire tax” are banking on the state’s highest court to stop the issue from going before Massachusetts voters in November.

The Supreme Judicial Court is scheduled on Tuesday to hear arguments on the legal challenge which, if successful, would likely derail supporters’ hopes of raising nearly $2 billion for improvements in public education and transportation.

The constitutional amendment would impose a surtax of 4 percent on any portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million.

The justices are not being asked to decide on the merits of the proposal, but instead whether it runs afoul of restrictions the state constitution places on the scope of ballot initiatives. Continue reading

Millionaire Tax Wrong Way to Play Robin Hood

The millionaire tax is a brilliantly marketed bad idea.  It’s hard not to find appeal in the concept of higher taxes on top earners when income disparity has grown dramatically in recent years.  An additional boost to that feeling comes from the new federal tax bill calculated to benefit plutocrats and further aggravate disparity.  Federal tax rates are still progressive but the richest will pay less on their U.S. returns so why not make them pay more to the Commonwealth?  Equally appealing is the requirement that revenue generated by the new millionaire tax must be spent on public education and transportation.

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Op-Ed: Tax-and-Spend Plan Unconstitutional – Ballot Measure Would Upend State Budget Process

By William Weld

Not so long ago, this commonwealth was universally known as “Taxachusetts.” It was not a term of affection.

The state’s unemployment rate was about 10 percent — the highest of all the 11 industrial states. The secretary of Administration and Finance publicly stated that Massachusetts was “bankrupt.”

In many cities and towns, every third storefront was boarded up. On streets near the state borders, there was a “for sale” sign on virtually every other house.

The year was 1990, the year that Paul Cellucci and I were narrowly elected as governor and lieutenant governor.

The first thing we did was to repeal a recently enacted sales tax on services. During my two terms, we cut taxes 20 more times, and never raised them. Continue reading

Massachusetts High-Tech Business Group: Major Clean Energy Deals Should Be Affordable

By Mary C. Serreze

As Massachusetts prepares to import large amounts of renewable energy, a technology-centered business group is emphasizing that any long-term clean power contracts sanctioned by the state should be affordable.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts High Technology Council wrote to Department of Energy Resources commissioner Judith Judson, saying the DOER should prioritize ratepayer impacts as it considers a slew of competing transmission projects under the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP, a competitive solicitation for low-carbon electricity.

“Make no mistake, cost matters,” wrote council president Christopher R. Anderson.  “We support the Commonwealth’s efforts to be a national leader in renewable energy, but we must all be mindful of the impact energy costs have on job creation and our reputation as a leader in the innovation economy.” Continue reading

Tech Council Urges Attention to Clean Energy Costs, Economic Impacts

By Katie Lannan

Cost to ratepayers should be the top priority for state officials weighing clean energy projects, the Massachusetts High Technology Council said Thursday.

In a letter to Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson, the council cited the state’s comparatively high electricity costs and urged “the strongest of consideration” for potential economic impacts.

“As regulators deliberate on the best project for Massachusetts’ clean energy future, strong consideration must be given to the impacts on our ability to meet the needs of our growing economy,” council President Christopher Anderson said in a statement. “Make no mistake, cost matters. We support the Commonwealth’s efforts to be a national leader in renewable energy, but we must all be mindful of the impact energy costs have on job creation and our reputation as a leader in the innovation economy.” Continue reading