the very rich. (Even renters pay property taxes; the
taxes are simply rolled into the cost of rents.) With
the Raise Up Massachusetts amendment in place, the
top 1 percent would still pay a smaller-than-average
share of their incomes to state and local taxes ( 8
percent), but the gap would be narrowed.
n The rich have gotten much, much richer,
while incomes for everyone else have stagnated.
According to the MBPC, the incomes of most
Massachusetts households have barely increased in
inflation-adjusted terms since the late 1970s. But
from 1979 through 2011, incomes of the top
1 percent in Massachusetts grew 10 times faster
than incomes of households in the bottom 90
n The U.S. has the highest rate of income
inequality among all advanced economies. A
2014 Harvard Business School study found that
the average CEO of a Fortune 500 company makes
more than $12 million a year, or 354 times what
the average employee of those companies makes.
Another study found that a typical worker at a
McDonald’s or Starbucks has to work for six months
to earn as much as each of those companies’ CEOs
makes in an hour. Yet in Massachusetts, millionaire
CEOs and minimum-wage workers are all taxed at
the same rate.
Highest priorities for funding
Public opinion polling makes it clear that public
education and transportation would be the highest
priorities for money raised by a new tax on the very
“The voters recognize that for a state to thrive,
we need excellent public schools, affordable
higher education and much better transportation
infrastructure so people can get to their schools,
homes and workplaces,” Madeloni said.
In addition, these services have been badly
underfunded in recent decades because past tax cuts
have slashed the revenue needed to support them. In
inflation-adjusted dollars, state support has dropped
for public schools, public higher education and
n Per-pupil state spending on public higher
education is down 49 percent between the peak —
fiscal year 2001 — and FY 2016. That’s a loss of
more than half a billion dollars.
n State spending on K- 12 Chapter 70 aid is
down 8 percent between the peak year, FY 2002,
and FY 2016, when adjusted for enrollment
Initiative would reduce income inequality
Continued from previous page
n State spending on other local aid — some of
which is spent on education — is down 50 percent
between FY 2001 and FY 2016.
n State spending on early education and care is
down 32 percent between FY 2001 and FY 2016.
Cuts in state funding for public education and
other local aid have varied across districts, but in
many cases have led to fewer elective courses,
new fees for athletics and extracurricular activities,
poorly maintained technology, large class sizes,
limited professional development opportunities
for teachers and demands for givebacks at the
At the higher education level, impacts have
included a dramatic decline in the percentage of
courses taught by full-time faculty, continued poor
compensation of adjunct faculty, skyrocketing costs
and debt for students, and contentious battles to get
the state to make good on promised pay and benefits
“The austerity narrative that denies income
inequality and tells communities and colleges to do
more with less no longer holds,” said Madeloni. “We
are ready to imagine more for our Commonwealth
and do what’s needed to access the resources to do it.
This is about the common good — about economic
The amendment process
The Raise Up Massachusetts initiative is for
a constitutional amendment, not simply a law
change, because of a provision in the Massachusetts
Constitution. Article 44 states that taxes “shall
be levied at a uniform rate throughout the
commonwealth upon incomes derived from the same
Previous efforts to amend the Constitution to
allow for a more progressive tax system have gone
down in defeat, largely because many voters didn’t
trust the Legislature to allocate the money where it
was most needed and worried that it would apply
higher rates to income earned by low- and middle-
These two concerns are addressed in the
amendment crafted by the Raise Up Massachusetts
coalition this year.
The proposed amendment states, “There shall
be an additional tax of 4 percent on that portion of
annual taxable income in excess of $1,000,000 (one
million dollars) reported on any return related to
In addition, the threshold is indexed to inflation.
The Constitution would continue to prohibit applying
differential rates to income below the adjusted
The amendment also spells out where the
money is to go: “To provide the resources for quality
public education and affordable public colleges and
universities, and for the repair and maintenance of
roads, bridges and public transportation …” Thus,
it is clear that education and transportation are
the services that must benefit from the increased
To amend the Constitution, the supporters
have to collect 64,750 certified signatures this fall.
Because so many signatures are disqualified for
one reason or another, the campaign is relying on
volunteers to collect more than 100,000 signatures
and turn them in to city and town clerks’ offices
at different checkpoints through the November
Once certified, the petition forms must be
picked up and delivered to the Secretary of the
Commonwealth’s office by Dec. 2.
Assuming that effort is successful, the initiative
must then be approved by one-quarter of the state’s
200 representatives and senators — at least 50 of
them — during constitutional conventions held in
two consecutive legislative sessions.
“It is a lot of work to amend the state
Constitution,” Madeloni said. “It is work that can
only be done through a people’s movement. It is a
grassroots effort that must involve tens of thousands
of MTA members.
“A grassroots campaign does more than just
get us the signatures we need,” she continued. “It
is also the best way to educate ourselves and others
about the serious problems in our society caused by
inadequate funding of our education system coupled
with our country’s staggering — and growing —
income inequality. This is an opportunity to deepen
our coalitions, to build power and to show ourselves
and our communities that we have a shared interest
in and willingness to work for the greater good.”
For more information on the campaign, visit
www.massteacher.org and www.raiseupma.org.
dollars, state support
has dropped for public
schools, public higher
education and local aid.