Paul Diego Craney Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance Says No to Question 1

In November, Massachusetts voters are expected to consider history before voting on Question 1. This voting question represents the seventh attempt to change Massachusetts’ flat tax structure. History shows that Massachusetts voters want a flat tax and the legislature cannot be trusted on how to spend the new taxes.

As a basic background, every taxpayer pays the same 5% rate on their income tax and this flat tax is protected by our state constitution. Voters have rejected five previous attempts to change this lump sum protection, and most recently the state’s highest court declared the sixth attempt “unconstitutional.”

Now the Legislature, not the voters, is pushing the seventh attempt to show up for a vote. This proposal from our politicians would add an 80% increase in state income tax, from 5% to 9%, for income over $1 million. Politicians claim that the revenue from the tax hike would be used to fund “transportation” and “education” and lead to increased spending. Massachusetts voters need to look at history before believing this claim.

In 1986, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question that would automatically reimburse all taxpayers when the state overtaxed its people. The voter-approved rebate law is set to come into effect this year, marking only the second time in its history that it has been triggered. Despite its rarity, it hasn’t stopped some Statehouse lawmakers from trying to overturn the will of voters and prevent the discounts from taking place.

Over the summer, Chairman Ron Mariano was asked about enforcement of the refund law and the powerful politician said, “It’s all on the table. We could break the law. We could change it. We could postpone it.

The speaker has since backed down on his threat, but more recently other lawmakers have moved to change the 1986 voter-approved law from a tax refund to a tax redistribution program. the wealth. Voters in 1986 approved this law and ordered the state to reimburse taxpayers proportionate to their contributions, but lawmakers are trying to break the 1986 promise and spend the money as they see fit.

Another example was in 1992, Massachusetts voters passed a ballot question imposing an additional 25-cent excise tax on cigarette sales, with revenue earmarked for a special health protection fund to be used for anti-smoking programs.

Soon after, lawmakers began to ignore the requirement that the state use this tax for anti-smoking programs. In 2003, the Legislature went so far as to repeal the portion of the Voting Matters Act that kept this tax earmarked for anti-smoking programs, but of course left the tax itself in place.

Once the law was changed in 2003, it gave the Legislature the green light to ignore promises made in 1992. In fiscal year 2021, funds budgeted for tobacco prevention totaled $5.12 million. dollars, while cigarette tax revenue totaled $315.85 million.

Question 1 asks voters to believe that our state’s politicians will use this 80% increase in income tax for “transportation” and “education.” We are told that this will lead to additional expenditure in these areas, but as we saw with the 1992 cigarette tax and more recently with the move to amend the 1986 rebate law which is due to come into force this year, lawmakers change their minds.

It’s a big gamble to trust a politician when he’s been given the keys to the vault. The safe is the constitutional guarantee that all taxpayers are taxed the same. Once lawmakers figure out how to change state income tax, what’s to stop them from backtracking? The answer is, not much. The Massachusetts Constitution included this protection because its framers knew that politicians might be tempted to pit one group of ratepayers against another.

Even if you believe there should be more taxpayer dollars spent on transportation and education, a yes vote to question 1 will not guarantee that outcome. A question on the ballot cannot limit the Legislative Assembly on how it spends our tax dollars. A yes vote to question 1 will only open the door for politicians to change our income tax rate. Please join me in voting no on Question 1, which will uphold our constitutional protection of equal taxation and send a message for the seventh time that this protection is worth upholding.

Paul Diego Craney is the spokesperson for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

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