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

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