Why Investing in Transportation and Public Education Matters

The best way to help working families and build a stronger economy for us all is to make sure that we have quality public schools for our children, affordable public higher education, and a transportation system that allows people get to school or work, lets customers get to businesses, and helps everyone fulfill their daily tasks. Without investment in these common goals, working families fall behind and our communities suffer. New revenue is necessary to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges, and paths, improve our public schools, invest in fast and reliable public transportation, make public higher education affordable, expand opportunities for healthy walking and bicycling, and give every child access to high-quality early childhood education and preschool programs.

Right now, the highest-income households in Massachusetts – those in the top 1 percent – pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than does any other income group. Our wealthiest residents can clearly afford to pay a little more to fund the investments we all need. If Massachusetts is serious about helping working families and building a stronger economy, we must invest in quality public schools, affordable higher education, and a reliable transportation system.

The Legislative Fair Share Amendment

The Fair Share Amendment is a proposal to amend the Massachusetts Constitution, creating an additional tax of four percentage points on the portion of a person’s annual income that is above $1 million. The new revenue generated by the tax would be spent on quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.

The original Fair Share Amendment garnered over 150,000 signatures from MA voters, passed through two constitutional conventions, and was supported by a large majority of voters in public polling, but was challenged by a corporate-backed lawsuit and removed from the ballot by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. However, the basis for that disqualification was narrow, and does not apply to a legislative version of the amendment.

The state constitution provides two ways that constitutional amendments can be presented to the voters. A citizen’s constitutional amendment, which is how Raise Up Massachusetts pursued the Fair Share Amendment in 2015, is subject to some special constitutional restrictions, including a requirement that all matters in the petition be “related or mutually dependent.” The Supreme Judicial Court disqualified the amendment on the grounds that the portions of the amendment that (1) established the tax and that (2) dedicated its revenue to education and transportation did not meet this “relatedness” requirement.

A legislative constitutional amendment, which doesn’t require signature collection, begins with a legislator introducing the amendment and then requires two consecutive constitutional convention votes of a majority of the Legislature. It is not subject to the constitution’s “relatedness” requirement. A measure identical to the 2015 amendment can be placed on the 2022 ballot by this method, and legislation introduced by Sen. Lewis (S.16) and Rep. O’Day (HD.3300), and supported by Raise Up Massachusetts, would start this process.

What the Fair Share Amendment Means for Massachusetts

Quality Public Schools: Students need a well-rounded education, founded on a rich and varied curriculum that includes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), music, art, and athletics. We need to re-invest in these programs now to give all of our students access to a complete education.

Affordable Public College: Our tuitions and fees are among the highest in the country, and students are forced to take on enormous debt to receive a degree. Compared to other states, Massachusetts ranks 45th in state spending on higher education as a share of our economy. We need to reinvest in public higher education, to make it affordable for middle and working class students in our state.

Improved Transportation Infrastructure: Right now, our transportation network is stuck in the last century. For Massachusetts to compete against other regions around the nation and the globe, we need to invest in modern, reliable transportation: safer roads and bridges, public transportation that riders can count on, and safe ways to walk and bike around town. We have a large backlog of neglected bridges, tunnels, roads, paths, and public transportation infrastructure in need of repair. 446 bridges in Massachusetts are structurally deficient, meaning they have major deterioration, cracks, or other flaws that reduce [the] ability to support vehicles, and an estimated $14.4 billion of bridge repairs are needed. If we don’t provide the funding soon to deal with these problems they will only get more dangerous and more expensive to solve in the future.

Early Education and Preschool: Our children need high-quality early childhood education and preschool programs to develop early literacy and math skills, build a foundation for STEM learning, and develop social-emotional skills that help them succeed in school and in life. Investing in high-quality early childhood education and preschool programs is critical to creating greater educational attainment for our children and supporting the future economic growth of Massachusetts.