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Public Hearing on Millionaires Tax in MA

The Fair Share Amendment, if passed, would raise about $2 billion a year for transportation and public education in Massachusetts. (David Bibo/Wikimedia Commons)
The Fair Share Amendment, if passed, would raise about $2 billion a year for transportation and public education in Massachusetts. (David Bibo/Wikimedia Commons)
April 11, 2019

BOSTON – A public hearing today in Massachusetts will focus on a bill that would create a "millionaires tax" to fund transportation and public education. Known as the Fair Share Amendment, it would create a four percent state tax on the portion of a person's income above one million dollars.

Winchester Democrat Jason Lewis introduced the Senate version of this bill. While the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday didn't issue any broad new taxes as part of its 2020 state budget plan, Lewis thinks the Legislature still will vote for this bill.

"It's also about which taxes you are considering increasing and who pays those taxes,” says Lewis. “Our middle class in Massachusetts is tapped out. That's why the Fair Share Amendment has so much support."

Last year, the Fair Share Amendment passed the Legislature and was expected to be on the November ballot. But in June, the amendment was ruled unconstitutional because it both imposed a tax and stipulated where the funding was going.

Now, a legislative version of the amendment – which Lewis says meets the constitutional requirements – is being heard by state lawmakers. Lewis wants to figure out how to fund the state's unmet needs in education and transportation – which some estimate are underfunded by at least $1 to $2 billion a year.

"It would raise a substantial amount of new revenue to support these needs, and it would raise the revenue in a fair and progressive way so that the additional tax burden would not fall on working families," says Lewis.

Lewis says the bill could raise about $2 billion a year in new revenue.

Danielle Seltzer is a teacher at Amherst Regional High School. Seltzer supports the Fair Share Amendment because she sees how the lack of funding affects her school system.

"Being from western Massachusetts, there are a lot of schools out here that are under threat of closing, which means students would have to drive over an hour to get to their school,” says Seltzer. “We shouldn't make education inaccessible to people. Public education is not a privilege; it's absolutely a right."

The public hearing starts at 11 a.m. at the Joint Committee on Revenue. If a majority of lawmakers in two successive legislatures approve the bill, it would then reach the state ballot by 2022.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - MA