Initiative petition submitted to support public education

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The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition has submitted a petition for a constitutional amendment that would generate funds for education and transportation in the Commonwealth by creating an additional tax on income of more than $1 million a year .

The amendment to the state Constitution would create an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income over $1 million. The new revenue generated by the tax would be spent on quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation. To ensure that the tax would continue to apply only to Massachusetts’ highest-income residents, the million-dollar threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases.

“This initiative is a game-changer,” MTA President Barbara Madeloni said after the petition was submitted to the attorney general’s office on Tuesday, Aug. 4. “Our members have told us that new resources will help them create and support the schools and colleges our students deserve and make our public higher education system more affordable.

“This initiative
is a

- MTA President Barbara Madeloni

“It’s time to end the austerity myth that is used to justify depriving some students of an enriching educational experience,” Madeloni continued. “Let’s make Massachusetts a truly great place for students to live and learn, regardless of their ZIP codes.”

Raise Up Massachusetts is a coalition of community organizations, religious groups and labor unions, including the MTA.

The initial petition for the amendment was signed by 10 individuals. They include Rebecca Cusick, a veteran fourth-grade teacher who is president of the Fall River Educators’ Association, and Mary Ann Stewart, parent representative on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“To provide a sound future for our children and for our state, we need to invest more in education, starting with early childhood,” Stewart said. “We're not investing appropriately in urban and poorer communities, with preK education especially, and we're all paying the price.”

In the late summer and the fall, the coalition plans to collect certified signatures from at least 64,750 registered voters, or 3 percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for governor in 2014.

If enough certified signatures are collected, then the petition would need to go to a joint session of the Legislature and be approved by 25 percent of legislators, or 50 votes, before the end of formal sessions on July 31, 2016. The petition would then need a second approval by 25 percent of legislators in a joint session before the end of formal sessions on July 31, 2018, to appear on the ballot on Nov. 6, 2018.

Barbara Gutman, coordinator for the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action and a member of the Steering Committee of Raise Up Massachusetts, said that “the best way to help working families and build a stronger economy for us all is to make sure that we have quality public schools for our children, affordable higher education, and a transportation system that lets people get to work and customers get to businesses. Without investment in these common goals, working families fall behind and our communities suffer.”

“Massachusetts has one of the largest income inequality problems in the country, and it’s getting worse.”

- Arthur MacEwan, professor emeritus of economics, UMass Boston

Raise Up Massachusetts collected more than 350,000 signatures in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of two ballot initiatives: raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers. In June 2014, the Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation giving Massachusetts one of the highest minimum wages in the country.

The coalition then led the successful “Yes on 4” campaign that ensured access to earned sick time for all workers in the Commonwealth.

Arthur MacEwan, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said of the proposed amendment, “Massachusetts has one of the largest income inequality problems in the country, and it’s getting worse. Yet our highest-income residents, who have been the biggest winners in the economy, pay the smallest share of their income in state and local taxes. If they paid their fair share — the same share as the rest of us — we would be able to improve our schools, make higher education more affordable, and fix our crumbling transportation system.”

The initiative petition was signed by the following 10 individuals:

  • Islandia Aquino, Lawrence, personal care attendant
  • Rebecca Cusick, Fall River, president of Fall River Educators' Association and veteran fourth-grade teacher
  • Rev. Jose Encarnacion, Worcester, senior pastor at Christian Community Church
  • Debbie Frontiero, Gloucester, owner of 7 Seas Whale Watch
  • Arnold Hiatt, Boston, former president of Stride Rite
  • Clare Higgins, Northampton, former mayor of Northampton and executive director of Community Action
  • Marven-rhode Hyppolite, Lynn, former president of the Student Government Association at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  • Barbara Mann, Peabody, president of Massachusetts Senior Action Council’s North Shore chapter
  • Sigute Meilus, New Bedford, Bus Riders United organizer for the Community Economic Development Center
  • Mary Ann Stewart, Lexington, parent representative on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

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