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 above $1 million. The new revenue, approximately $2 billion a year, would be spent on quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation. To ensure that the amendment continues to apply only to the highest income taxpayers, who have the ability to pay more, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Lewis (S.16) and Rep. O’Day (H.86), which is supported by the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, started the legislative process of amending the constitution. In June 2019, the Fair Share Amendment received a Constitutional Convention vote of 147 legislators in favor to 48 opposed. Now, it must receive a second 50% votes of the Constitutional Convention during the 2021/2022 legislative session in order to be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to decide.
Why We Need the Fair Share Amendment
To help working families and build a stronger economy for us all, we need to make sure we have quality public schools for our children, affordable public higher education, and a transportation system that works. Without investments in these common goals, working families fall behind and our communities suffer.
New revenue is necessary to improve our public schools and pre-K programs; rebuild crumbling roads, bridges, sidewalks, and bike paths; make high-quality public higher education affordable; and invest in fast and reliable public transportation.
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 any other income group. Our wealthiest residents can clearly afford to pay a little more to fund the investments we all need.
Amending the Massachusetts Constitution – Two Pathways
The state constitution gives the people of Massachusetts the right to vote to amend our constitution. There are two pathways for amendments to be presented to the voters. Each pathway has a separate and distinct set of requirements that proposed amendments must meet.
The legislative amendment process allows any legislator to introduce a constitutional amendment. The amendment must then receive the support of 50% of the Legislature in two consecutive constitutional conventions, followed by an affirmative vote by the people on the ballot. This method does not require signature collection at any time. There is no requirement that the subjects in a legislative amendment be related.
The citizens’ amendment process, which is how Raise Up Massachusetts first pursued the Fair Share Amendment, begins with petitions signed by thousands of citizens. The amendment must then receive the support of 25% of the Legislature in two consecutive constitutional conventions, followed by an affirmative vote by the people on the ballot. A citizens’ amendment is subject to some unique restrictions, including a requirement that all items in the amendment be “related or mutually dependent.”
The Supreme Judicial Court Challenge and the Fair Share Amendment
The original Fair Share Amendment, a citizens’ amendment, garnered over 150,000 signatures from Massachusetts voters and then passed two constitutional conventions with the support of 134 out of 200 legislators. Large majorities of voters have supported it in repeated public polling.
After a corporate-financed lawsuit, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled against the original Fair Share Amendment on the grounds that it did not meet the “related or mutually dependent” requirement for citizens’ amendments.
Nothing in the Supreme Judicial Court ruling prevents the legislature from exercising its constitutional prerogative and placing the Fair Share Amendment before the voters on the 2022 ballot as a legislative amendment.
If Massachusetts is going to help working families and build a stronger economy, we must invest in quality public schools, affordable public higher education, and a reliable transportation system with the Fair Share Amendment.