Millionaires’ tax passes second test

State legislators vote ‘yes’ on tax

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 5/25/2016, 10:21 a.m.

Advocates also say it is a good time to invest in infrastructure. By the end of 2015, 415 of the state’s bridges were structurally deficient, a number expected to rise to 700 by 2025 if the level of state investment does not increase, according to information from Phineas Baxandall of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. Similarly, if funding remains level, he predicted that by 2025, 79 percent of state roads will be in poor or fair condition — up from 37 percent today.

The amendment could even increase life expectancies, Rebekah Gewirtz, executive director of Massachusetts Public Health Association, said.

“That is a recipe for public health,” Gewirtz told the Banner. “All literature suggests that quality education and transport that can get people to jobs, to doctor’s appointments, help people live longer, healthier lives.”

Neighborhood and societal factors, such as the state of the sidewalks and the education opportunities available, play a significant role in people’s ability to make healthier choices, Gewirtz said. For instance, repairing broken sidewalks lets people be more mobile, and providing transit to grocery stores — along with the kind of education that leads to well-paying jobs — allows people to access healthier food.

In 2007, adults age 25 and up who did not have at least a high school degree were 4.5 times more likely to report their health as “fair” or “poor” and five times as likely to report serious psychological distress, according to a 2012 report from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Human Needs. Diabetes was more than twice as prevalent among that group than among adults who had graduated high school.

The million-dollar question

Legislators opposing the amendment said it threatens to damage the economy by prompting millionaires to remove themselves or their assets from the state, and thus from the tax pool and local economy entirely.

During the convention, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr called the proposed tax “a further penalty on success” that targeted those who are “among the most mobile … [and] have the ability, more than other people in our society, to avoid taxation [by leaving].” He added that he expected it to be an unpredictable revenue source, reliant on expectations about the living choices of these wealthy residents.

State Rep. Geoff Diehl said that wealthy investors and entrepreneurs are the primary job generators, and that this tax stands to discourage them from entering the state.

However, Jesse Mermell, president the Alliance for Business Leadership, a group that connects progressive business leaders and policymakers to work toward reforms, told the Banner that she believes the Fair Tax amendment will provide business with desirable assets desirable, such as an educated workforce and safe, reliable transportation.

“There is nothing more important that we can do for the economy and business environment in Massachusetts than investing in education and transport,” she told the Banner.

Raise Up Massachusetts members assert that tax rates are less likely to spur millionaires’ residency decisions than factors such as jobs and social circles.

“Research shows that high-income people move to be near family and jobs, or to places with cheaper housing markets or warmer weather, not to save a few percentage points on their taxes.” states a Raise Up Massachusetts facts sheet. The coalition predicts that those most likely to be leave due to the tax would be wealthy retired people, which could reduce the new revenue from approximately $1.7 billion to approximately $1.6 billion.