Millionaire Tax Back in Play

Jan 18, 2019Commonwealth Magazine, Council in the News

By Bruce Mohl and Michael Jonas

The Backers of the millionaire tax are preparing to mount a second campaign to get it passed, but this time they are using an approach designed to sidestep the legal issues that derailed the constitutional amendment the first time.

Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition pushing a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million, said on Friday that it intends to pursue a legislative constitutional amendment this time around. The group said Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester and Rep. James O’Day of Worcester plan to file the amendment, which to pass would need majority support of the Legislature at two consecutive constitutional conventions and then approval by voters in 2022.

The group’s previous campaign was a citizen’s constitutional amendment. That approach was shot down by the Supreme Judicial Court in June 2018, just months before it was scheduled to appear on the ballot, because the measure violated a constitutional provision requiring all elements of such a question to be “related” or “mutually dependent.” Many thought creating a tax generating roughly $2 billion a year and directing that the revenues go to transportation and education were not mutually dependent.
Raise Up Massachusetts said the so-called relatedness provision would not apply with a legislative constitutional amendment.

Chris Anderson, the president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, which spearheaded the legal challenge to the previous question, said his group would review its options. “They think they’ve solved the problem. It’s unclear whether they have or not,” he said.

If the constitutional amendment does make it on to the ballot, Anderson said his organization would fight it. “At the end of the day, whether it’s constitutional or not doesn’t fundamentally change the wisdom of putting tax policy in the constitution, especially when we have a number of economists in agreement that we’re about to enter a recessionary period at some point. This is exactly the kind of policy that hamstrings legislators from adjusting policy,” he said.

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