Community, Faith, and Labor Coalition Beginning Field Activities to Win Major Investments in Transportation and Public Education Funded by Tax on Multi-Millionaires
New Poll Shows 73 Percent of Massachusetts Residents Support Fair Share Amendment With 18 Months Until Election Day
BOSTON – The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions today announced the launch of the public campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment, the proposed state tax on incomes above $1 million that would raise approximately $2 billion a year for spending on transportation and public education, on the November 2022 ballot.
“Even before the pandemic, our state’s economy was working great for los ricos [the rich] at the top, but working communities like Lawrence were struggling to get by and get ahead. Coronavirus has only made the rich richer and the poor worse off.” said Yasiris Morel, a Northern Essex Community College student and Lawrence resident. “Families like mine need a fair shot by investing in public schools and colleges. We need a transportation system that works to get people where they need to go, safely and on time. We need multi-millionaires to finally pay their fair share so we can fix these potholes and avoid unnecessary costs in car repairs. We need this Fair Share Amendment, and we’re ready to go out and win it!”
During a virtual press conference, workers, students, faith leaders, legislators and advocates spoke about the need for major investments in transportation and public education, and called for multi-millionaires to pay their fair share to support our economic recovery and the public services we all depend on.
“In my town, Fall River, most of the buses stop around 5 pm except for 4 routes. A few years ago, I wanted to get my bachelor’s degree but couldn’t because the only college in Massachusetts that had a human services program was Bridgewater State University, and I couldn’t go because there were no buses that went there,” said Sabrina Davis, organizer with the Coalition for Social Justice and Bus Riders United. “Now, as a driver, I experience the poor state of our roads and bridges all the time. Every time I hit a pothole, I worry about damaging my car, and needing expensive repairs. Passing the Fair Share Amendment would generate funds that we so desperately need to invest into our transportation system, providing better transportation options to allow all of us to seek out better opportunities that will improve our lives!”
“In nearly two decades of teaching at Lawrence High School, I’ve seen students go through unspeakable challenges. Looking okay here does not look the same as it did when I went to Andover High, or my son went to Haverhill High. We cannot eliminate these economic inequalities, but we can be sure every student has the best technology, the best trained and supported teachers, and programming that will bring them to their greatest potential,” said Sondra Longo, an English teacher at Lawrence High School. “We need the Fair Share Amendment so that we can provide a well-rounded, high-quality education to all of our students, not just to some.”
“Love, at its core, is expressed in obligation. An obligation to ensure that we all live lives of dignity and respect,” said Rabbi Mike Rothbaum of Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton. “If we love the poor, then we are duty-bound not just to feed them, but to help them uproot the social structure that undermines their dignity. If we love the rich, then we are duty bound to encourage them to invest in their neighbors. And if we love our state, then we are obliged to fund it.”
Members of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition described the grassroots organizing activities the coalition is already engaged in to win the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot next year. Regional Fair Share Amendment teams have held meetings in every region of the state to educate and engage supporters, over 40 activists attended a statewide leadership training last week to take the Fair Share Amendment campaign back to their organizations and communities, and regional leadership teams are planning local launches for the Fair Share Amendment campaign next month.
“We’re all part of this campaign because we know how important investments in transportation and public education are to the future of our Commonwealth. But we know that some multi-millionaires won’t pay their fair share without a fight. That’s why today, we’re launching the public campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment on the November 2022 ballot,” said Pablo Ruiz, Deputy Director of the SEIU State Council and a member of the Raise Up Massachusetts Steering Committee. “We’re calling on the legislature to act once more to put the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot and let the people vote. But we’re not waiting for that vote to start building the statewide grassroots organizing campaign that will take the Fair Share Amendment over the finish line next November.”
In June 2019, 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 current 2021/2022 legislative session in order to be placed on the November 2022 ballot. The constitutional convention convenes for the first time this legislative session next Wednesday, May 12, and can consider the Fair Share Amendment at any point after it convenes.
“The $2 billion in new revenue that this proposal would raise would go a long way in helping to fix crumbling roads and bridges, improving service on the MBTA and other public transportation, increasing funding for public schools, expanding access to quality early childhood education, and making higher education more affordable for students and families,” said Senator Jason Lewis, the bill’s sponsor in the State Senate. “It’s also the best way to raise revenue that would make our tax system fairer and more progressive, rather than increasing taxes on middle class families who cannot afford to pay more.”
“Long before the pandemic, we needed new investments in our transportation and public education systems to maintain our economic competitiveness, support our local communities, and ensure Massachusetts remains a great place to live and work,” said Representative Jim O’Day, the bill’s sponsor in the State House of Representatives. “As we recover from the pandemic, those investments are needed more than ever, and the Fair Share Amendment is the best way to pay for them.”
The coalition also released results from a new poll of Massachusetts residents conducted by Echo Cove Research for the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which found that 73 percent of Massachusetts residents support the Fair Share Amendment, while only 27 percent oppose it. Additionally, the poll found that more than eight out of every ten residents support increasing state spending to better fund PreK-12 public schools (87%), make public higher education more affordable (84%), and improve roads and bridges (82%). The poll of 600 Massachusetts residents was conducted online and by telephone, in English and Spanish, from March 26 to April 5.
“Residents of Massachusetts want Beacon Hill to play an active role in helping the state recover from the pandemic’s financial, emotional, and physical costs, and they feel strongly that multimillionaires should pay more to support increased state spending on transportation and public education,” said Richard Schreuer, Principal of Echo Cove Research.
Advocates spoke about the need to begin investing in transportation and public education with federal COVID relief aid, and then continue those investments long-term with funding from the Fair Share Amendment.
“As schools struggle to reopen and our transit systems remain underfunded and in a state of despair, we can create a plan with a renewed vision for what a thriving Commonwealth looks like. The Fair Share Amendment is a key ingredient to achieve equity in Massachusetts,” said Marie-Frances Rivera, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. “Today’s flexible federal relief money, that Massachusetts has received through the CARES Act and other forms of federal relief are the essential bridge to the Fair Share Amendment. We can invest in a better, more racially equitable Commonwealth now, knowing that the Fair Share Amendment can provide long-term support to investments in education and transportation over the long term.”
Background on the 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 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.
Massachusetts needs fair and sustainable funding to meet our long-term needs for investment in transportation and public education. Now more than ever, we need investments in our public schools to help students recover from the effects of the pandemic, and to ensure that all students have access to a complete and well-rounded education. We have a large backlog of neglected and structurally compromised bridges, tunnels, roads, paths, and public transportation infrastructure in need of repair. Tuitions and fees at our public colleges and universities are among the highest in the country, and students are forced to take on enormous debt to receive a degree.
As we recover, 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. Long before the pandemic, we needed new investments in our transportation and public education systems, and now those investments are needed more than ever to lift our economy into an equitable recovery and tackle the longstanding racial inequities that hold our state back from its full potential.
Our wealthiest residents can clearly afford to pay a little more to fund the investments we all need. For years, the highest-income households in Massachusetts – those in the top 1 percent – have paid a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than any other income group. They’ve also benefited from repeated federal tax cuts: 83 percent of the 2017 tax bill’s benefits went to the top 1 percent, and in 2020, the federal CARES Act included $135 billion in tax breaks for wealthy business owners. And while countless people and small businesses suffered during the COVID-19 crisis, multi-millionaire investors saw their net worth skyrocket. The 20 billionaires in Massachusetts saw their wealth increase by a total of $17.2 billion during the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic alone.
A previous citizen’s initiative version of the Fair Share Amendment, initiated by members of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, received over 157,000 signatures from Massachusetts voters in 2015, and passed two constitutional conventions in 2016 and 2017 with the support of 134 out of 200 legislators. The Fair Share Amendment was supported by a large majority of Massachusetts voters in repeated public polling and was set to appear on the November 2018 ballot, but the process of qualifying the question for the ballot was challenged by a corporate-backed lawsuit, and it was removed from the ballot by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. Nothing in that 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.
Public support for the Fair Share Amendment has remained consistently strong over the years. Independent polling conducted by the MassINC Polling Group in December 2020 found that 72 percent of Massachusetts voters support the Fair Share Amendment.
Raise Up Massachusetts, which has led the campaign for the Fair Share Amendment since 2015, 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, and started to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. Learn more at raiseupma.org.