Bob DeLeo's House Fails to Do Its Job on Revenue

Amendment #1357 withdrawn without debate, without a vote, without any action Amendment #1357 withdrawn without debate, without a vote, without any action

Today, as the Massachusetts House of Representatives debated revenue-raising amendments to the state budget, the legislative culture that has come under criticism in recent months was again on display.

“The House has once again failed to enact policies that the overwhelming majority of Massachusetts voters support,” said Jonathan Cohn, Chair of the Issues Committee for Progressive Massachusetts. “When you’re stuck on a disabled train tomorrow or your child’s school announces that it is cutting its art and music programs at the end of this year, the blame for that rests solely with our state legislature.”

Of particular concern to activists was Rep. Mike Connolly’s withdrawal of Amendment #1357, which would have raised tax rates on unearned income, such as that from stocks, bonds, and other investments. “I’m disappointed to see Rep. Connolly cave to leadership and withdraw his budget amendment; this just reinforces a State House culture where debate is silenced, no one takes a stand and nothing gets done,” said Erika Uyterhoeven, Co-Founder of the newly-incorporated nonprofit Act On Mass. “The only way our representatives get away with being so out of step with their voters is by doing business behind closed doors with no record of who is responsible. If Rep. Connolly, who has been a progressive leader, won’t stand up and demand a public debate on crucial issues, who will?”

Connolly’s amendment was based on a report released in January by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center that offered fourteen options for raising progressive revenue – revenue that asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share while easing the burden on low and middle income families. According to the report, the top 1% of earners in Massachusetts paid just 6.8% of their income in state and local taxes in 2018, while the median earner paid 9.3% and those making less than $22,500 a year paid 10%.

As Connolly himself explained in an April 9 blog post, “Last year, a group of business leaders filed a lawsuit to throw Fair Share off the ballot, arguing that the components of the proposal failed the ‘relatedness requirement.’ By a 5-2 vote, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court agreed. Because it’s an amendment to the state constitution, Fair Share must now begin another four-year journey to the ballot…However, we must acknowledge that we cannot wait another five years for significant new revenue. We’re facing a confluence of issues requiring major public investment right now. Fortunately, we can take action to raise new, progressive revenue right now.”

Amendment #1357 was one small piece of the Mass Budget proposal that Connolly referred to, but it would have moved Massachusetts toward the fairer tax system that has clear-cut support of its citizens.

“Over and over, polls have shown that more than three quarters of registered voters in Massachusetts support asking very high income people to pay an amount more proportionate to what they earn so that our communities can afford to educate our kids and fix our broken transportation system, whether it be the potholes in the road or the Green Line trains that derail more than any other public transportation system in the nation,” Cohn noted.

“Some of our legislators aren’t listening to their constituents, but you’ll never know if your representative is one of them because there wasn’t a vote,” concluded Uyterhoeven.