As Fair Share Amendment Advances Towards 2022 Ballot, Community, Faith, and Labor Coalition Calls for Corporate Responsibility in Legislature’s Fall Revenue Debate
Letter Calls Out Large, Profitable Corporations for Supporting Taxes and Fees on Working People Rather Than Contributing Themselves
BOSTON – As the legislature prepares for a debate over state revenue-raising options this fall, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions today sent a letter to legislators calling on the Massachusetts business community to contribute themselves to fund investments in transportation and public education, not just ask working people and road users to pay more.
“We need major new investments in transportation and public education, but we cannot continue to balance our budgets solely on the backs of low- and moderate-income people,” reads the letter. “Large, profitable corporations and their lobbyists are calling for working people to pay more, and they think they deserve a big round of applause for letting the rest of us pay higher taxes! The Massachusetts corporate community needs to explain just how businesses plan to do their part to fund our transportation and public education systems.”
In recent weeks, business organizations across Massachusetts have discussed transportation financing concepts that would have road users pay even more, without taking any responsibility for businesses themselves to chip in.
“In a time of record corporate profits and soaring CEO compensation, and as corporate shareholders continue to benefit from Trump’s massive corporate tax cut, it’s insulting that Massachusetts business leaders are supporting higher taxes and fees for drivers and public transit riders, while actively organizing to avoid paying their own fair share,” said Pablo Ruiz, Deputy Director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council and a Co-Chair of the Raise Up Massachusetts Grassroots Committee. “Working people across Massachusetts are already dealing with enough. It’s time to ask the big, profitable corporations which have gained the most from our economy to do their part in making the investments in transportation and public education that will drive future economic growth.”
“The entire Raise Up Massachusetts coalition is dedicated to passing the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot in 2022, because we know that Massachusetts desperately needs significant and lasting investments in quality public schools and colleges and in our roads, bridges, and public transportation systems across the state. We know that the Fair Share Amendment is the most progressive and sustainable way to raise substantial new revenue to make those investments,” said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA). “In the meantime, we look forward to working with state leaders, as well as responsible business leaders and organizations around the state, to raise additional state revenue by asking large, profitable corporations to do their part, making our tax system more fair to low- and moderate-income people who are struggling to get by.”
A recent Congressional Research Service report found that the 2017 Republic tax law reduced the average corporate tax rate from 23.4 percent to 12.1 percent, a $94 billion reduction in corporate taxes, and a Tax Policy Center analysis found that 82.8 percent of the bill’s benefit would go to the top 1 percent. In Massachusetts, special business tax breaks, which apply only to businesses operating in specific industries or reward only certain kinds of business activities, cost the Commonwealth over $1 billion annually.
“Massachusetts businesses are able to be successful because of our history of a well-educated workforce as well as our investments in transportation infrastructure and world class public schools. They rely on a dependable transportation system to get their goods to market and their employees to work,” said Steven A. Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “It’s time for wealthy corporations to contribute themselves to invest in our future for the public good.”
The letter points out that even as business groups are advocating for higher taxes and fees on working families, they are actively organizing to avoid paying their fair share. The Massachusetts High Technology Council’s latest newsletter began with a warning about the threat of “over taxation,” while Associated Industries of Massachusetts said that now is “exactly the wrong time to place additional cost burdens on business.”
“Big corporations and their lobbyists have stood in the way of investments in transportation and education for years, and now they want credit for finally admitting we need new revenue, as long as the rest of us are footing the bill. That’s not going to fly here,” said Jonathan Cohn, Chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts. “Big business needs to put their money where their mouth is and come up with a real plan to contribute to our Commonwealth’s needs.”
“This month, our students across Massachusetts are returning to underfunded schools, and their families are traveling on pothole-filled roads and on overcrowded trains and buses. We need immediate investments in our schools and colleges, and in our transportation systems across the state,” said Beth Kontos, President of AFT Massachusetts. “Businesses benefit from those investments just as much as the rest of us, and they have a responsibility to help cover the cost. As we work to fund our students’ future, the big corporations that rely on Massachusetts’ well-educated workforce need to pony up.”
The letter thanks the Legislature for their continued support of the Fair Share Amendment, the proposed tax on incomes above $1 million that would raise approximately $2 billion a year for spending on transportation and public education. In June, the Legislature advanced the Fair Share Amendment one step closer to the ballot with a Constitutional Convention vote of 147 in favor to 48 opposed. The Amendment needs to receive another 50% vote of the constitutional convention during the 2021/2022 legislative session in order to be placed on the November 2022 ballot.
“The Fair Share Amendment should be in effect today, generating an additional $2 billion a year for spending on transportation and public education each year,” reads the letter. “But a corporate-financed lawsuit backed by over a million dollars in undisclosed donations, and led by five corporate lobbying organizations – Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, the Massachusetts High Technology Council, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and the National Federation of Independent Business – led to the prior version of the Fair Share Amendment being removed from the ballot on a technicality. Our current transportation and public education funding crisis is their responsibility.”
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 generated by the tax, 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 tax 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. Nothing in last year’s Supreme Judicial Court ruling, which related to the citizens’ amendment process, prevents the legislature from exercising their constitutional prerogative and placing the Fair Share Amendment before the voters on the 2022 ballot as a legislative amendment.
Raise Up Massachusetts is a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity. Since our coalition came together in 2013, we have nearly doubled wages for hundreds of thousands of working people by winning two increases in the state’s minimum wage, won best-in-the-nation earned sick time and paid family and medical leave benefits for workers and their families, led the campaign for the Fair Share Amendment to invest in transportation and public education, and started to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. Learn more at raiseupma.org.