Legislators advance Fair Share Amendment

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State legislators have overwhelmingly approved a citizens’ petition for a ballot initiative seeking to raise revenues for public education and transportation through an additional four percent tax on annual income over $1 million.

The Fair Share Amendment initiative passed 135 to 57 in a joint House and Senate constitutional convention on Wednesday, May 18. The measure must receive at least another 50 votes in a second constitutional convention — to be held during the next legislative session — before it can be placed on the November 2018 ballot.

“It was great to see the overwhelming support for the amendment,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni.  “The coalition we belong to collected more than 150,000 signatures to bring this petition forward, and the vast majority of our elected representatives did the right thing in honoring the will of the people.”

Legislators soundly defeated several proposed amendments. Any amendments adopted would have made the measure a legislative matter, no longer falling under the rules of a citizens’ petition.

Debate focused on the regressive nature of Massachusetts’ current tax system, under which the highest earners have a lighter tax burden than most working families and low-wage earners. Legislators also pointed out the urgent need for more early-childhood education opportunities and greater access to public higher education, both of which would be eligible for additional revenue under the amendment.

Once in place, the additional tax on the state’s highest earners would generate an estimated $2 billion annually for public education and public transportation needs.

The MTA is a member of Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor unions, social justice organizations and faith-based groups. Madeloni said the coalition will remain active in the months ahead to promote the initiative and seek to end “an austerity narrative that deprives all levels of public education the necessary resources to fully meet students’ needs.”

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