Fair Share Amendment gets State House hearing

Revenue Amendment Header

Advocates for greater state investment in public education and transportation voiced support for an additional tax on annual income over $1 million at a State House hearing on Jan. 19.

The hearing was called by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue to consider placing the Fair Share Amendment on the 2018 Massachusetts ballot.

State House hearing on Fair Share amendment

Cambridge educator Betsy Preval, at right, testified in support on the Fair Share Amendment. She was on a panel with Rodney Mohammed, a Brockton parent, and Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action of the Franklin, Hampshire and North Quabbin Regions.

Economists and business leaders argued that more support for public education and transportation infrastructure would help the state’s economy grow and provide more opportunities for everyone in the Commonwealth. Educators and parents of public school students testified that their schools have suffered from shrinking budgets. They described inadequate classroom resources and a lack of early education opportunities.

Public higher education faculty and staff and other college and university supporters said that students are taking on greater amounts of debt to shoulder higher tuition and fees while public campuses privatize services, defer maintenance and allocate more admission slots to out-of-state students simply because they pay more to attend Massachusetts’ public colleges and universities.

“It doesn’t take courage to support this measure – it only takes common sense,” said Tom Goodkind, president of the Professional Staff Union at UMass Boston. The Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition, of which the MTA is a member, gathered more than 157,000 signatures on petitions supporting the ballot measure. The constitutional amendment would invest the additional revenue only in public education and transportation.

“It doesn’t take courage to support this measure – it only takes common sense.”
– Tom Goodkind
PSU President at UMass Boston

Because the initiative seeks to amend the state Constitution, it must pass through the Legislature’s constitutional convention process, which means the question could not appear on the ballot before 2018.

Once passed, the Fair Share Amendment would generate an estimated $1.5 billion annually.

MTA President Barbara Madeloni testified in favor of the amendment.

“In recent years, we have seen the divide between rich and poor grow to historic levels. Let’s be clear what this divide means: It means the long-held dream of college education is eroding for many. It means working parents must hold multiple jobs just to make ends meet. And it means that schools, especially urban schools, are consistently underfunded,” she said. “We think it is fair to ask those who have reaped the biggest rewards from our economy to pay a fair share toward reversing these barriers for Massachusetts families.”

The Joint Revenue Committee has until April 27 to issue a recommendation on whether to advance the bill to the constitutional convention.