Income

The argument: Should Massachusetts impose an additional tax on income over $1 million?

Joni Cederholm

The Fair Share Amendment, Question 1 of the November Ballot, is a unique opportunity to make our tax system fairer – and to invest in our public schools and colleges while making our roads and bridges safer.

Question 1 would create a 4% tax on annual income over $1 million and constitutionally dedicate the funds to transportation and public education. Only people who earn more than a million dollars a year will pay more; 99% of us won’t pay a penny more.

As an education support professional at Weymouth, I see how students need more one-on-one help to get back on track after the disruption of COVID-19. But due to a lack of funding, we have significant staffing shortages in our public schools. And although I worked as an ESP for 28 years, I only make $20.25 an hour, which is two-thirds of a living wage.

Question 1 will allow us to invest in our public schools and colleges to ensure that all students have access to a comprehensive education, from pre-kindergarten through college. It will help repair neglected and structurally unsafe roads and bridges and modernize our public transit infrastructure.

The billionaire-backed opponents of Question 1 are seeking to confuse voters to avoid paying their fair share. But don’t fall into the trap of their misinformation: Question 1 is not a business tax and does not apply to any business income. And only 1% of Massachusetts homes are selling enough to be affected by Question 1 — about 895 of every 100,000 homes sold last year would trigger the tax.

Bottom line: Only those who earn more than $1 million in personal income in a single year will pay more. And the tax only applies to the amount of their income over $1 million. The wealthiest 1% of taxpayers – who currently pay less tax than the rest of us – can afford to pay a little more to improve our schools, colleges, roads and bridges.

And because Question 1 would be enshrined in the state Constitution, the Legislature would be constitutionally required to spend that new money — about $2 billion each year — just on transportation and public education.

With Question 1, we have the opportunity to grow our economy and make it work for everyone.

NOPE

Peter Forman

President and CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce; Plymouth resident

Peter Forman

The political decisions that can be the most harmful are those that cannot be easily corrected.

The “millionaire tax” proposal on the November ballot is an amendment to the state constitution. It can only be repealed or changed by future amendment — a process that can take many years.

Contrary to some claims, the proposed amendment does not guarantee that the higher taxes will be spent on education and transportation. The wording makes it clear that it is not legally binding on future legislatures. Proponents may hope that continued political pressure will compel lawmakers to spend them on these programs, but there is no certainty that they will. The only thing guaranteed is higher taxes for people earning over a million dollars.

An independent assessment from the nonpartisan Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University estimates that about half of the people who will pay are not the super rich who make fortunes every year. This tax will hit people who earn more than $1 million in a single year. These high one-time earners can hit the mark by selling a long-standing title, a lifetime home that has appreciated, or a small business that has taken years or decades to grow.

Also, it’s not just a “small” 4% tax on income over $1 million. This is 4% more, on top of ordinary income tax. For affected taxpayers, a 9% tax rate on anything over $1 million represents an 80% increase from the current rate of 5%.

Other states have tried similar “tax the rich” laws and this has motivated some people to leave those states. One can debate the number of people and the amount of money that accompanied them, but it is clear: money moves.

The Center for State Policy Analysis has estimated that up to 35% of estimated tax revenue will be avoided by people leaving the state or changing some of their decisions as investors and business owners.

In a post-COVID world where more people can choose to live anywhere, given the experience of other states with similar proposals and the near political impossibility of correcting a faulty constitutional amendment, the House of Commerce de la Rive-Sud believes that this proposal is a bad bet for our future.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact [email protected].

This is not a scientific investigation. Please vote only once.