New Massachusetts ‘Tax the Rich’ law raises $1.5 billion for public good

The amendment, applying a 4 percent annual surtax to individuals with incomes over $1 million, was passed via a statewide ballot initiative in 2022.

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Massachusetts’ new “millionaire’s tax,” formally known as the Fair Share Amendment, has generated considerable revenue since its implementation. Initially expected to bring in $1 billion for public education, infrastructure, and early childcare programs, the tax exceeded these projections. According to the state Department of Revenue, this fiscal measure will contribute an unexpected $1.5 billion by June.

The amendment, applying a 4 percent annual surtax to individuals with incomes over $1 million, was passed via a statewide ballot initiative in 2022. This initiative was part of a broader movement in the United States to tax the wealthiest households and corporations more heavily.

The revenue from the Fair Share Amendment has been a boon for Massachusetts, with the state Department of Revenue estimating a significant $1.5 billion addition to state coffers. This figure surpasses the initial projections and represents a substantial financial boost for the state.

The allocation of these funds is diverse, with significant portions earmarked for public services like education and infrastructure. This considerable financial influx is reshaping how Massachusetts funds its critical public services, setting an example for how targeted taxation can benefit the broader community.

The tax revenue is financing various public services in Massachusetts. For instance, universal free school meals have been implemented, a relief for many families across the state. Additionally, the aging public transportation system is receiving much-needed improvements, enhancing daily commutes for thousands of residents.

Another notable allocation of these funds is toward tuition-free education for community college students, a step forward in making higher education more accessible. These programs, funded by the wealthiest residents, highlight the tangible benefits of re-distributive tax policies.

The passage of the Fair Share Amendment was a contentious process, reflecting the divided opinions on wealth taxation. While it garnered enough support to pass, the narrow victory indicated a split in public and political opinion.

Critics, including some business leaders, warned that such a tax could drive wealthy individuals and businesses out of the state. However, supporters like Jonathan Cohn, political director for Progressive Massachusetts, argue that the benefits for public services justify the measure. The law’s success in its first year has only added to this debate.

For individuals earning over $1 million, this tax represents a new financial obligation. Despite concerns about potential negative impacts on this demographic, the actual cost to the state’s richest taxpayers has been balanced by the substantial public benefits.

The tax’s implementation shows a shift in how the state approaches revenue generation and wealth distribution. It challenges the narrative that higher taxes on the wealthy are inherently detrimental to the state’s economic health.

Looking forward, experts like Andrew Farnitano of the Raise Up MA Coalition anticipate that revenues from the Fair Share Amendment could increase to as much as $2 billion by the 2025 budget. This projection suggests a growing impact on the state’s ability to fund essential services.

“The impact we’ve seen over the past few months is just the beginning,” Farnitano stated, highlighting the potential long-term benefits of this taxation approach. The anticipated increase in revenue points to a sustained and growing source of funding for public goods.

The Fair Share Amendment aligns with a national trend favoring increased taxation of the wealthy. A Politico/Morning Consult poll in 2021 showed that 74 percent of Americans supported higher taxes for the wealthiest, while a Gallup survey in 2022 indicated that over half of the respondents favored redistributing wealth through heavy taxation on the rich.

These statistics reflect a growing consensus across the United States for more equitable tax policies. The success of Massachusetts’ millionaire’s tax might encourage other states to consider similar measures.

Not everyone is on board with the millionaire’s tax. Critics like Paul Diego Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance argue that such policies drive wealth out of the state, a sentiment echoed by other conservative voices. They contend that punishing success is counterproductive and could lead to an exodus of wealth and talent from Massachusetts.

However, experts note that it is too soon to determine the tax’s impact on state demographics and whether there is a direct correlation between the tax and any out-migration trends.

Despite the influx from the millionaire’s tax, Massachusetts faces challenges in other areas of state revenue. The overall state revenue collections are falling short of expectations, a situation attributed to broader macroeconomic trends like a slowdown in durable goods purchasing and hiring.

In this context, Farnitano argues that the decline in other state revenues highlights the importance of the Fair Share Amendment. “Without this new tax, we wouldn’t be able to make these new investments,” he said, underscoring the amendment’s role in sustaining public service funding.

In its first year, the Fair Share Amendment has demonstrated the potential of targeted wealth taxes to significantly benefit public services. As Massachusetts navigates the challenges and benefits of this new tax, other states and policymakers will likely watch closely.

“These fundamental investments are needed to ensure our economy works for everyone, not just the wealthiest,” states Farnitano. This is “only possible because the voters passed this constitutional amendment and we created this new tax.”

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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

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