The Legislature will vote again tomorrow on an amendment to the state constitution to impose an additional four percent tax on the income of persons that exceeds a million dollars annually.
This will be the second of two legislative votes the constitution requires for amendments that originate as initiative petitions. The proposed amendment received 135 “yes” votes from the 200 members of the Legislature last year, far more than the 50 necessary to advance. Another 50 or more “yes” votes tomorrow will put keep the amendment on track to appear on the 2018 statewide ballot.
But the closer the amendment gets to a popular vote the more opposition it attracts. For example, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, which sat things out last year, is joining forces with other business groups in a legal challenge aimed at knocking it off the ballot.
And last year’s opponents are ratcheting up their efforts this year. Associated Industries of Massachusetts is running a multi-episode series entitled “The Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap” to puncture what it regards as myths (sample myths: the state has a revenue problem, the state needs to invest more in transportation, high income earners are not paying their fair share).
Likewise, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association is rushing to the aid of the 19,600 residents of the state who would be subject to the additional tax, warning the rest of us against penalizing talent (their word) in this way. They offer an ominous scenario in which some — or all — of the top 900 of these residents (that is, those whose annual earnings exceed $10 million, aka, the top one-one hundredth of one percent) just take their ball and go elsewhere, leaving the state with less revenue than before. In other words, income inequality in Massachusetts has reached the point where it’s being suggested that our tax policy ought to beseech our biggest plutocrats not to leave.
Anyway, stay tuned – this battle isn’t over.