If the SJC Sticks to Precedent, the Millionaire’s Tax Initiative is Going Nowhere

By Jeff Jacoby

Some things Massachusetts gets right.

For 101 years the state constitution has commanded that income be taxed at a uniform rate, a shield against populist agitators whipping up class envy to raise taxes.  The constitutional ban on graduated income-tax rates keeps the Legislature from raising revenue at will by targeting one bracket at a time.  Lawmakers have to change everybody’s tax rate — or nobody’s.

A ballot initiative now being pushed by a left-wing umbrella group would change all that.  Raise Up Massachusetts wants to amend the constitution by requiring a sharp increase in the tax rate for income over $1 million.  The activists know that the state’s voters have repeatedly rejected initiatives to eliminate the state’s uniform-rate rule.  So this time there’s a sweetener: The proposed amendment decrees that all revenue raised from the new tax may be expended for only two purposes — public education and public transportation.  Unfortunately for Raise Up Massachusetts, their sweetened ballot question is illegitimate. Continue reading

Business Groups Fight ’18 Ballot Question

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. Continue reading

Editorial: Three Legal Strikes

By Editorial Staff

It’s easy to complain that the proposed “millionaire’s tax” set to go before Massachusetts voters next year is just a cynical effort to squeeze the wealthy to fund more government jobs.  Easy, because it happens to be true.

But it’s even more worrisome to consider, as the plaintiffs in a pending lawsuit charge, that the initiative “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.”

And if that sounds like a big deal, that’s because it is. Continue reading

Income Surtax Opponents Call Proposal “Truly Radical”

By Andy Metzger

A proposed constitutional amendment that roughly 70 percent of Bay State lawmakers voted to put before voters is “truly radical,” a group of business representatives told the state’s highest court in a brief filed Monday.

Christopher Anderson, the president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, and others have appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court to block from the 2018 ballot the proposal to impose a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million to fund transportation and education programs. Continue reading

Massachusetts to Offer Tax Credits for Small Businesses that Hire Veterans

By Shira Schoenberg

“Certification through the New England Tech Vets program shows that a company is not just saying they are veteran friendly.  It shows they are taking concrete steps to better engage and retain veteran employees,” said retired Navy Rear Admiral Clarke Orzalli who helped design the program, in a statement.

Massachusetts is launching a new tax credit program that will be available to small businesses that hire veterans.

The credit was included in this year’s budget, but businesses will only be able to start the process of becoming eligible for it on Dec. 1.

To get the tax credit, representatives of the businesses will have to undergo an online training program to ensure they are aware of the particular issues facing veteran employees.  This will include training related to recruitment, social support and recognizing how wartime experiences affect the workplace.

The Massachusetts High Technology Council, together with military and education-related organizations, has developed the first certified training program called “New England Tech Vets Veteran Ready Employer Education and Certification Program.”  The program will be offered for free. Continue reading

Study: Proposition 80 Would Give MA 2nd Highest Combined State & Federal Capital Gains Tax Rate in U.S.

By Editorial Staff

If voters approve Proposition 80, scheduled to appear on the statewide ballot next year, Massachusetts’ top capital gains tax rate would go from 30th highest in the nation to fourth and the commonwealth’s highest combined state and federal rate would move from 25th to second, according to a new policy brief published by Pioneer Institute.

“Proposition 80 would have an outsized impact on capital gains,” said Greg Sullivan, the author of “Back to Taxachusetts Series: Capital Gains.”  “And one of the few things most economists agree on is that keeping taxes on investment low is critical to economic growth, job creation, and rising wages.”

The ballot initiative would put an additional 4 percent surtax on any annual income over $1 million. Continue reading

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