BOSTON – The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions today released the following statement regarding the filing of a legislative version of the Fair Share Amendment:
“Last year, a few wealthy corporate executives and their lobbyists brought a lawsuit that blocked the right of Massachusetts voters to amend our state’s constitution. As we said at the time, the court’s narrow ruling does not change the fact that Massachusetts desperately needs major investments in our public schools and colleges, our roads and bridges, and our public transportation systems. Today, our campaign to invest in those significant needs with the Fair Share Amendment continues.
“Our wealthiest residents can clearly afford to pay a little more to fund important investments in our communities, and Raise Up Massachusetts has voted to support the filing of the Fair Share Amendment as a legislative constitutional amendment. We thank Senator Lewis and Representative O’Day for their leadership in filing the amendment. We look forward to working with the House and Senate to put the legislative Fair Share Amendment on the ballot, and to allow the voters of Massachusetts to exercise their right to vote on this critically important policy.”
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. To ensure that the tax continues to apply only to the highest-income taxpayers, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases.
In 2015, Raise Up Massachusetts launched a campaign for the Fair Share Amendment by collecting more than 157,000 signatures from Massachusetts voters, 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.
The Fair Share Amendment was supported by a large majority of Massachusetts voters in repeated public polling, but was challenged by a corporate-backed lawsuit and then 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.
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, and started to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. Learn more at raiseupma.org.