State Rep. Marc T Lombardo, R-Billerica, opposed a renewed effort to amend the state Constitution by creating a graduated income tax.
According to a release from Lombardo's office, the so-called “Millionaires Tax” – which is being billed by proponents as an opportunity to boost spending on education and transportation – does not include sufficient safeguards to ensure the money raised will actually result in any significant funding increases in these two areas. He also expressed concerns about creating a two-tiered tax system.
Meeting in a joint Constitutional Convention on June 12, the House and Senate gave initial approval to the “Millionaires Tax” on a vote of 147-48, with Lombardo voting against the proposed amendment. A second vote of the Legislature is required during the 2021-2022 legislative session before the measure can be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voter approval.
Massachusetts currently imposes a uniform tax rate of 5.05 percent on personal income. Under the proposed amendment, the state would assess an additional surtax of 4 percent on income in excess of $1 million, beginning Jan. 1, 2023, with the revenues generated to be expended for education and transportation, subject to appropriation by the Legislature.
To ensure that current state spending in these areas is not diverted for other purposes, Lombardo supported an amendment stipulating any revenues generated by the surtax will be used “in addition to and not in lieu of funds” that are already being appropriated for education and transportation. That amendment failed on a vote of 40-156.
Lombardo also expressed concerns about the Legislature’s ability to revisit the surtax if it does not work out as planned. By placing language in the state Constitution, any effort to repeal the surtax would have to go through a time-consuming four-year process that would prevent any repeal question from appearing on the state ballot until November of 2026 at the earliest.
Lombardo also noted that the amendment calls for the new revenues to be used “for quality public education and affordable public colleges and universities,” but does not define what actually constitutes a “quality” education, or an “affordable” education. This ambiguity could open the Commonwealth to costly litigation moving forward.
According to Lombardo, the commonwealth doesn’t have a revenue problem but rather a spending and priority problem. Massachusetts collected $1.1 billion in revenues surplus last year all while the state spends over $2 billion annually for benefits for illegal immigrants. MassHealth’s line item has more than doubled in the last 10 years, now consuming more than 40 percent of the state budget.
“It’s time for reforms in state government, not unfair and divisive class warfare tax increases” said Lombardo.