The Massachusetts legislature voted 135 to 57 to advance the Fair Share constitutional amendment to the next joint session during the 2017-2018 legislative session. The amendment would assess an additional 4% surtax on individual annual income over one million dollars, and would require the legislature to allocate the increased revenue solely on education and transportation needs.
The amendment specifically states that the 4% surtax will only apply to individual annual income starting at $1 million. Any income less that $1 million would be taxed at next year’s state income tax rate of 5%. According to the Department of Revenue, the proposed amendment would affect approximately 14,000 Massachusetts residents and will raise between $1.4 and $2.2 billion annually, earmarked specifically for education and transportation.
“The Fair Share Amendment is the best opportunity we have right now to make our tax system fairer, invest in education and transportation, strengthen our economy, and begin to restore the American Dream for poor and working families in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Jason Lewis, who offered remarks in emphatic support of the Fair Share Amendment at the Constitutional Convention.
Massachusetts has fundamental needs in both transportation infrastructure and education. 446 bridges in Massachusetts are “structurally deficient,” meaning they have “major deterioration, cracks, or other flaws that reduce [the] ability to support vehicles,” and an estimated $14.4 billion of bridge repairs are needed.
In addition, the rising cost of college education has hindered the ability of younger generations to afford a college education without exorbitant amounts of student debt. Before 1987, a student working a minimum wage job could pay their way through UMass Amherst without any debt. Today, the average UMass Amherst student who takes out student loans to pay for school is graduating with over $30,000 in student debt, and the average graduate of Bridgewater State with loans leaves school with over $32,000 in student debt.
Under the Massachusetts constitution, a proposed constitutional amendment must be approved by one-quarter of all elected members of the legislature, which is currently 50 votes. The legislature must approve the amendment in two consecutive joint sessions, which happen during each two year legislative session, before the question appears on the ballot for voter approval. With today’s vote, the amendment moves to the next joint session before being placed on the ballot in 2018.