Official Publication of the Massachusetts Teachers Association
MTA beats signature goal for tax initiative
By Laura Barrett
B y mid-November, the MTA and other members of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition had collected more than enough
signatures to qualify a proposed constitutional
amendment for the ballot.
The amendment would raise about $1.5 billion
annually for public education and transportation.
The coalition as a whole had amassed more than
150,000 signatures as of Nov. 16. More than 29,000
of them were collected by MTA members.
“The MTA committed to collecting 20,000, and
we exceeded that goal,” said MTA President Barbara
Madeloni. “This shows what we can do when we
join in collective action as a union and as a member
of a progressive coalition. Members understand that
we need more resources for our students, our schools
The total number of raw signatures collected
is far more than the 64,750 certified signatures that
must be submitted to the secretary of state’s office
by Dec. 2 to set the wheels in motion to get the
amendment on the 2018 ballot.
If passed, the amendment would raise new
revenues through a 4 percent additional tax on
annual income over $1 million. That threshold would
be adjusted for inflation in the future.
News of the successful signature drive
came just weeks after the Foundation Budget
Review Commission concluded that the state is
underfunding public schools by roughly $500
million a year.
Cindy Tranfaglia, a building representative and
a history teacher at Revere High School, was one
of hundreds of local activists who found it easy to
persuade members to sign.
“Just about everyone signed, even the principal.
I only had one person who said, ‘I have to think
about it and will get back to you later,’” Tranfaglia
Tranfaglia added that petitioners made it clear
in at least one case that signing would help get
the initiative before voters rather than serve as a
guarantee of support for the amendment itself.
Once certified, the initiative must be approved
by at least 50 of the state’s 200 senators and
representatives in two consecutive joint legislative
sessions. Supporters will have almost three years
to make the case for the plan and to dispel several
One is that Massachusetts is a “tax-and-spend”
Reporter Evan Horowitz set the record straight
on that issue in a Nov. 4 Boston Globe article titled
“‘Taxachusetts’ is a lie. Here’s why.”
Horowitz concluded, “Massachusetts may be a
very liberal state, but it hardly takes a tax-and-spend
approach to governance. Taxes are low, compared
to other states, and government spending is even
Spending here is particularly low in two areas
that would benefit from the Raise Up amendment.
“Relative to the size of our economy, the Bay
State ranks dead last in spending for highways,
roads, and bridges, and comes out among the bottom
10 in terms of higher education spending,” Horowitz
He noted that Massachusetts ranks 24th out of
the 50 states in the share of income paid for all state
and local taxes combined — mainly income, sales
and property taxes. In New England, only New
Hampshire residents pay a smaller share.
Creating a higher rate for the very wealthy
requires a constitutional amendment because the
Massachusetts Constitution requires a flat tax
rate on earnings. Previous attempts to amend
that requirement have failed, mainly because
they appeared to give too much discretion to the
Legislature to raise rates on middle-income residents.
The Raise Up proposal differs from the earlier
ones because it allows just one higher bracket
affecting only the very wealthiest taxpayers. A
person making up to $1 million a year would not pay
any more. The new rate would only affect annual
income over $1 million.
The initiative also clearly spells out that the
money must be spent for “quality public education
and affordable public colleges and universities, and
for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and
“The 1 percenters have gotten richer and richer
while the rest are falling behind and experiencing
profound economic vulnerability,” Madeloni said.
“We now have a great opportunity to make the tax
system fairer while raising funds to improve our
schools and make our public higher education system
“This is a great start to the campaign,” she said.
“I look forward to members continuing to bring their
energy and experience throughout the legislative
For more information and updates, please visit
www.massteacher.org/revenue or www.raiseupma.org.
The initiative clearly spells out
that the money must be spent
for “quality public education
and affordable public colleges
and universities, and for the
repair and maintenance of
roads, bridges and public