Companies Taking Millions in Public Benefits, CEOs Won’t Pay Their Fair Share
BOSTON – As the state’s corporate lobbyists launch a legal attempt to deny the people of Massachusetts the right to vote on the millionaire’s tax that was placed on the 2018 ballot earlier this year, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition today criticized the corporate executives behind the lawsuit for opposing investments in transportation and public education that would benefit all the people of Massachusetts.
“It’s a shame that a few dozen of the richest individuals in Massachusetts are hiding behind secretive corporate lobby organizations like the High Tech Council and the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation to oppose the Fair Share Amendment,” said Lew Finfer, Co-Director of the faith-based Massachusetts Communities Action Network.
“Instead of supporting the Fair Share Amendment and the benefits that a well-educated workforce and a more reliable transportation system will create for their employees, their businesses, and our entire economy, these wealthy corporate executives are fighting the people’s right to vote, just to save themselves a small amount of money on their own personal income taxes,” said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA).
The Massachusetts High Technology Council (MHTC), a corporate lobby group that is leading the legal opposition to the Fair Share Amendment, has long advocated for greater focus on public education and transportation infrastructure. The group has supported raising the gas tax and hiking MBTA fares to fund transportation infrastructure, and supported the sales tax as a way to provide funding for education. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, which are joining MHTC in its lawsuit against the Fair Share Amednment, have all joined the MHTC in supporting an increase in the gas tax.
“When working people are asked to pay more for investments in transportation and education, these corporate lobbyists voice their support for investments,” said Steve Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “But now that we’re asking the multi-millionaire executives who run the High Tech Council to pay their fair share, they’re doing everything they can to keep the Fair Share Amendment off the ballot.”
Corporate Tax Breaks
MHTC member companies have received at least $144 million in tax breaks and other incentives from the State of Massachusetts and local communities, according to a Raise Up Massachusetts analysis of state records. The average annual compensation of chief executives whose companies received public benefits is $12.3 million.
“These corporate executives have made tens of millions of dollars running companies that benefit from investments in transportation and public education, and they don’t hesitate to take millions of dollars in tax breaks from the state,” said Deb Fastino, Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice. “Now they’re secretly bankrolling a legal challenge to avoid paying a small percentage of their enormous incomes to make transportation and education investments that will help our economy grow.”
At least 28 companies are members of more than one of the organizations challenging the Fair Share Amendment, including the Massachusetts High Tech Council, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and the National Federation of Independent Business.
“These five corporate lobbying groups are led and funded by the same small group of wealthy corporate executives who are trying to hide in anonymity,” said Roxana Rivera, vice president of 32BJ SEIU, which represents 18,000 building service workers in the Boston area. “It is simply unacceptable for so few people to attempt to disenfranchise so many in this way. These corporate lobbying groups should immediately reveal the financial backers of this lawsuit so that the hardworking people of Massachusetts know exactly who is trying to take away their right to vote on this citizen’s initiative.”
Other members of MHTC and the other corporate lobbying groups have received million in fees from the Pension Reserves Investments Management Board (PRIM) – the state investment board charged with overseeing the assets of state, county, authority, district, and municipal retirement systems.
“It is unconscionable that corporations and the individuals running them are willing to use profits that they have made off of educators and other public employees to attack a sensible initiative that will provide crucial resources to public schools and colleges,” said Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Advocates are confident that the Fair Share Amendment will withstand the challenge filed today with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
A legal team consisting of Kate Cook, head of the Government Law Practice Group at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen and the former chief legal counsel for Governor Deval Patrick, Lisa Goodheart, Partner at Sugarman Rogers and former president of the Boston Bar Association, and Northeastern University Law Professor Peter Enrich will represent proponents of the Fair Share Amendment in the Massachusetts High Technology Council (MHTC)’s lawsuit, which challenges the Attorney General’s certification of the constitutional amendment initiative petition. Cook and Goodheart are representing the original signers of the initiative petition, while Enrich is legal counsel for Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions behind the Amendment.
About the Fair Share Amendment
The Fair Share Amendment would amend the Massachusetts Constitution to create an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income above $1 million. The new revenue generated by the tax, approximately $1.9 billion in 2019 dollars, could only 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 tax continues to apply only to the highest-income residents, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases. In 2015, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions collected over 157,000 signatures to begin the process of amending the Massachusetts Constitution, all without using paid signature gathering companies. In May 2016 and again in June 2017, the state legislature, meeting jointly in a Constitutional Convention, voted overwhelmingly to advance the citizen’s initiative proposal and place it on the 2018 ballot. No legislator who voted for the Fair Share Amendment lost their seat in the November 2016 general election, demonstrating the Fair Share Amendment’s high level of support among voters.
Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that works for all of us, collected over 350,000 signatures in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of two ballot initiatives: raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers. In June 2014, the Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation giving Massachusetts the highest statewide minimum wage in the country. Raise Up Massachusetts then led the campaign to ensure access to earned sick time for all workers in the Commonwealth by passing Question 4 in November 2014. Now, Raise Up Massachusetts is working to create a paid family and medical leave program, raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, and pass the Fair Share Amendment to invest in transportation and public education with a tax on annual income above $1 million. Learn more at raiseupma.org.