Editorial: Time Out on Tax Hike

By Herald Staff

An alliance of business groups is poking sharp holes in the effort to establish a millionaire’s tax in Massachusetts, arguing in a new lawsuit not just that the proposed constitutional amendment is bad policy (it is) but that it is constitutionally flawed and should not have been certified to appear on the 2018 ballot.

Wealthy people aren’t the only ones who should be grateful for this effort; Massachusetts voters who five times have rejected a graduated income tax now have someone protecting their interests. Same for those who understand that it’s a terrible idea to give high-income earners an incentive to flee for friendlier states. Continue reading

Coalition Sues to Block Tax

By Marie Szaniszlo

““When you amend the constitution, you prevent the Legislature from touching it. The process of setting taxing and spending policy via amendments will open the floodgates to a series of constitutional amendments,” Anderson said.”

A coalition of business groups yesterday filed suit in the state’s highest court to try to block the proposed “millionaire tax” constitutional amendment from making it on the 2018 ballot.

In a 77-page lawsuit filed in the Supreme Judicial Court, the heads of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Tax­payers Foundation challenge state Attor­ney General Maura Healey’s 2015 certification of the proposed amendment as constitutional.

That certification cleared the way for two votes by the state Legislature — one in 2016, the other in June — to allow voters to decide next year whether Bay Staters should be subject to a 4 percent surtax on any portion of their income that exceeds $1 million. Continue reading

Business Groups Ask State Court to Kill Tax Proposal

By Greg Ryan

Leaders of five Massachusetts business advocacy groups are asking the state’s highest court to prevent the so-called “millionaires tax” proposal from going before voters, arguing that it sets aside tax revenue in a way that is unconstitutional.

The proposal, which is set to appear on the ballot in November 2018, would raise state income taxes for those making $1 million or more a year by four percentage points.  It would reserve those tax dollars for two purposes: transit and schools.

The heads of five of the state’s most high-profile business groups are filing the suit: the Massachusetts High Technology Council, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Continue reading

Business Groups Go to SJC to Challenge Tax Proposal

By John Chesto

“If I were voting on something, I would want to make sure the courts have already reviewed that what I’m voting on is actually constitutional,” said Anderson, one of the plaintiffs.

First, the business groups say, the question improperly links unrelated subjects: a graduated income tax and spending on transportation and education.

Second, they maintain that by dictating how extra tax revenue must be allocated, the initiative limits the Legislature’s ability to decide on spending, violating a state constitutional prohibition on making “specific appropriations” by initiative petition.

Finally, the groups argue that initiative petitions should not be used to take taxation authority away from the Legislature.

Continue reading

Biz Groups File Challenge with SJC in Bid to Derail Income Surtax

By Michael P. Norton

Proponents of an income surtax on high earners face a new challenge as opponents, led by large business groups, are going to court in a bid to derail a constitutional amendment calling for a 4 percent surtax on annual household income above $1 million per year.

A complaint filed with the Supreme Judicial Court Tuesday by officials from the Massachusetts High Technology Council, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and Associated Industries of Massachusetts alleges the proposal itself is unconstitutional and violates three requirements and restrictions on the content of ballot questions featured in Article 48 of the state Constitution.

“It is really important to understand that this lawsuit is not about whether creating a new graduated income tax is good public policy or bad public policy, it is about the way that it is being done, which we find to be so clearly flawed and unconstitutional that it is alarming,” Chris Anderson, president of the high tech council and former chairman of the state Board of Education, said in a statement. Continue reading

Amazon could find those 50,000 jobs hard to fill in Boston area

By Andy Rosen

“Research by the Mass. High Technology Council shows the state has the highest per capita concentrations of science, technology, engineering, and math degrees and also has the highest percentage of workers who hold bachelor’s degrees.”

For years, Massachusetts tech executives have been complaining about how hard it is to fill job openings — that whether they’re looking for a few or 50, there just aren’t enough qualified candidates for companies to grow at the pace they want.

So imagine if one tech company came in and tried to hire 50,000 people.

That’s the potential if Amazon selects Boston for its second headquarters. Overnight, just about every company with a tech focus or IT department would find itself in head-to-head competition with one of the biggest draws in the business. Continue reading

Missouri Treasurer’s Dashboard Compares State, National Financial Metrics

The Missouri Economic Dashboard, believed to be the first economic dashboard launched by a state treasurer, examines state and county financial data in comparison to national averages.

By Theo Douglas

“Christopher Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, which shepherded the Massachusetts’ Technology, Talent and Economic Reporting System (MATTERS) dashboard to its debut in February 2015, told Government Technology that the council’s website appears to have a different goal from the Missouri dashboard.

The Missouri dashboard, Anderson said, “looks more like a thermometer” with its emphasis on comparing the state nationally and on a county-to-county level. MATTERS, he said, was designed as a competitive tool to show Massachusetts its “relative strengths and competitive weaknesses in the context of other states, especially peer states.””

The Missouri Economic Dashboard compares economic data on a county-to-county basis, and contrasts state and national metrics.

Creating an interactive website capable of synthesizing multiple data streams can take years and cost thousands of dollars, but after a roughly eight-month sprint, Missouri debuted what it believes is the first economic performance dashboard launched by a state treasurer. Continue reading

Lawmakers Again Reject Baker’s Plan to Rein in Health Care Costs

By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

“We’re talking about a program that has become the dominant feature of state spending,” said Mark Gallagher, executive vice president at the Massachusetts High Technology Council, an employer group. “We have to get serious in addressing the underlying cost drivers.”

Massachusetts legislators, in a showdown with Governor Charlie Baker, again rebuffed his plan to curb the state’s rising health care costs, in part by moving some poor adults off of the state’s health care safety net program.

The Democrat-controlled House and Senate on Wednesday approved a related Baker proposal to raise $200 million a year for the state’s Medicaid program through new fees on employers and use it to help fund health costs. But they rejected a complementary set of proposals to curb spending, which Baker wanted lawmakers to approve as a package.

The governor could accept or veto their decision. It was not immediately clear how he would respond. Democrats in the Legislature have enough votes to override his veto.

The policy dispute between the governor and lawmakers, who generally get along, highlights the immense challenge of helping the poor while keeping public spending in check. It also puts Baker in a difficult spot with the business community, which supports paying new fees only if the state also implements the governor’s cost-cutting plan.

Business groups said Wednesday that they would urge Baker to use the veto. Continue reading

Baker Signs $40B Budget Without Health Fee, Vetoes $320M

By Bob Salsberg

“But the governor’s approach was supported by major business groups including the Massachusetts High Technology Council, which had agreed to the assessment only on the condition that the other Medicaid changes were included.”

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed $320 million from the state budget on Monday and asked lawmakers to revisit a package of cost-saving reforms he proposed to the state’s Medicaid program.

More than two weeks into the state’s new fiscal year, Baker signed into law the remainder of the roughly $40 billion spending package. Massachusetts was one of the last U.S. states to have a budget in place and had been operating under a stopgap plan since July 1.

Budget negotiations had been clouded by a tax revenue shortfall that forced state officials to reduce spending in the just completed fiscal year and reevaluate how much it could afford to spend over the next 12 months. Continue reading

Baker Gives Legislature Summer Assignment: MassHealth Reform

By Matt Murphy

“Massachusetts High Technology Council President Chris Anderson said his organization’s support for the assessment deal negotiated with Baker “has always been absolutely conditioned on the adoption of reforms to MassHealth that are sufficient to put the program on sustainable financial footing AND an ironclad commitment to sunset the assessment no later than the end of 2019.”

“Until such reforms are adopted, the Council cannot and will not support an employer assessment,” Anderson said in a statement.”

Gov. Charlie Baker gave the Legislature a new deadline on Monday, calling on them to approve by mid-September a $350 million package of new employer health care assessments and MassHealth reforms required to balance the annual state budget.

Baker signed a $39.4 billion budget for fiscal 2018 that lowered tax revenue assumptions for the year by $749 million and made $320 million in spending vetoes that will be examined and reviewed by House leaders and Rep. Jeff Sanchez, the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The governor also returned sections of the budget that would have allowed the administration to levy new fees and fines on employers to help pay for rising Medicaid costs. Instead, Baker wants to see the assessments, which he first proposed, coupled with reforms to MassHealth eligibility. Continue reading