Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fair Share | Public Hearing

Note: this post has been edited to add the image above and credit at bottom. A few (regrettable) typos have also been amended ~ mas

Raise Up MA has been beating the drum for a 10:30 'be there by' for the 11 AM hearing and it has worked! Gardner Auditorium is quickly filling up. Joint Committee on Revenue staff are taking sign-ups for folks giving testimony.

11:15 AM Chair Rep. Mark Cusack has given the Call to Order.
Rep. Cusack announces that testimony will come from Legislative colleagues first
Rep. Jim O'Day and Sen. Jason Lewis with the first testimony
Sen Lewis says he is thrilled to be joined by so many colleagues
They introduce themselves

Sen Lewis: tremendous unmet needs for families and communities
Cites state education underfunding
We can accept the status quo or do something about it
Now citing our unfair tax system
S.16 and H.86 will raise the revenue we desperately need for our Commonwealth


Rep O'Day: Thanks the Committee for bringing a hearing so quickly
MA holds ourselves at an extremely high level regarding education
We are short most years on education; roads and bridges
Business communities love our education system; this legislation ensures that will continue for years to come
$20,000/week is what you earn at a million dollars a year
If you  earn above that, you should pay your fair share
We cannot continue to build a strong economy on the backs of those who struggle
Vote this bill out in an affirmative manner as soon as you can

Sen Brady (Joint Committee on Revenue Member -- JCR): Education is a big priority; our roads are in a deplorable condition; if this passes, funds not available until 2023. Kudos to our chairs for holding a public hearing on this proposal so soon in the session. We are in desperate need of revenue in our districts. We need to do better. Only affects those making over and above a million dollars


Sen Jo Comerford: Want to call attention to Sen Lewis calling our tax system 'upside down'. It is. We all know the ROI on smart investment. 14,000 wealthiest households bring in $2B. Doesn't cover the $4B lost 20 years ago that those millionaires benefit from, correct?

Sen Lewis: That's correct

I missed who asked the Q, and Rep O'Day is giving a history on the Citizen Initiative
Oh! Qs from Rep. Randy Hunt, who follows up: How do we know the funds will be dedicated to the intended purpose?

Rep O'Day: Doesn't believe this body would take us in an opposite direction

Rep Hunt: I agree. My point is, we can't guarantee going in another direction, unless an election replaces all of us...How is the $2B calculated?

Sen Lewis: We can't know precisely. It's a reasonable estimate based on tax returns and the number of taxpayers

Reminder that Sen Lewis and Rep O'Day are the lead sponsors on S.16 and H.86

Sen Hinds: Thank you to all who are here in the room and active on this issue; know many of you came from further parts of the state. There were legal challenges previously, potential here?

Sen Lewis: with a Fair Share Redux

Sen Jehlen: Inequity in our schools; challenges with public transportation. It's the will of the people and the legislature. We have a constitutional obligation and we are not meeting it. We were counting on this passing last year. It's ironic that the SJC did what they did. It will take 4 more years before this will make a difference

Exit legislators, to applause

Raise Up MA Panel:
Cindy Rowe (JALSA): Increasing transpo fares again; updating education budget formula need; RUM strongly supports FSA because it dedicates funding for education and transportation.

Peter Enrich (Professor at Northeastern Univ, specializing in state and local tax law; Former Director of ANF in Dukakis Administration): Will try to answer two questions. Why do we need a Constitutional Amendment? Short answer, our state constitution requires it. The second question: is this a proposal in proper form to forward to legislators? You know the history, and SJC said no.

Alex Hoyt (? Social Studies/History in Worcester and Hudson): Fair is the most just solution to underfunded schools. Cites constraints on doing his job well because of underfunding. Says legislators would be challenged under the same constraints

Applause; a caution from the Chair to refrain from, but seriously, that was powerful testimony from Alex!

Sabrina Davis (Coalition for Social Justice): We must invest in transportation, commuter rail, the T

Marie-Frances Rivera (MassBudget President): Think if we hadn't committed to forward-thinking investments (on edu, transpo). Glad to see education budget formula risen to priority on Beacon Hill. Cites MassBudget's report of last summer, HERE

Q: How many signatures collected?
Sabrina Davis: Exceeded all requirements
Q: Volunteers?
SD: Many volunteers
Q: Other state's experiences with similar measures
Enrich: Not a substantial out-migration due to increased taxes
Comerford: Payments on structures?
Rivera: MA is one of the most highly educated states; strong correlation between higher education and strong economy
Comerford: an indicator of strong ROI
Rivera: Yes
Hinds: Folks can be very creative how they file taxes. Provisions around shifting their income?
Enrich: Good Q. The reality, of course, is federal taxes remain far, far higher, even with the so-called federal tax reform.
Hunt: Federal tax planning would apply to any state. Tax planning when it comes to this type of constitutional amendment:
Enrich: MA taxable income is largely for federal taxes. Would people change? not likely. Would it lead people to change where they are taxed? Possibly.

High Tech Council (Chris Anderson and others)
Chris Anderson (President High Tech Council): Impacts of this proposal are actually borne out as *over-reaching*. (Cites Illinois, Connecticut, and a couple other states that I didn't catch. Basically, citing *out-migration* of some people in these states as a reason MA shouldn't pass Fair Share) 

Brad MacDougall (VP of Govt Affairs at AIM-- Associated Industries of MA): We're not afraid of tax convos. Instituting tax policy via constitution is a concern.

Chris Carlossi (?): Opposed, largely because of the impact on small biz

Q: How progressive taxes have failed, how many have been repealed or overturned?
Anderson: Several. Maine, Maryland were legislative decisions. We have anecdotal data.
Q: Is a small biz owner. Happy to pay business taxes bc employees help the biz achieve
Anderson: We're already a progressive tax state
VC Rep Schmid: Do any of your orgs have an idea of what they think we will raise?
Anderson: Says they cite decreased property values
Schmid: Represents Fall River and New Bedford. Schools suffer. I'm very interested in hearing of any forecasts or revised forecasts of what this proposal might raised
Anderson: Committed to these convos
Rep Hay: Communities your'e talking about -- do any of those states had increases in any of their budgets for education?
Response: We can do our best to find out
Comerford: Understanding S Corps -- all liabilities are substracted?
Carlossi: Yes
Comerford: On millionaire flights, three of the five states with the highest concentrations of millionaires have a millionaire tax...why worry about MA millionaires moving out of state?
Anderson: Data show numbers of millionaires going down
Comerford: Share concern about econ growth...if Millionaire Taxes are so bad, why is it that when I look at this, there is growth across the board in 8 states
Anderson: these are important questions; state fiscal stability probably are different in the examples I've shown (CT, IL)
Comerford: There are other factors that determine a state's health
Q: Clarification on flight and what it is based on; I think I heard it based on projections?
Anderson: Mine based on actual examples

Former Rep. Jay Kaufman, former Chair of JCR: Big fan of Fair Share Amendment; source of enormous regret this didn't pass on my watch; I have not the slightest doubt that our people will support FSA because they understand Adequacy and Fairness. Rep Hunt asked a Q about fungibility. (previously) We can and should legislatively establish a separate account as a guarantee of transparency

Raise Up MA Panel #2:
Melinda Marchetti (1199SEIU): Pay my fair share, time for wealthy to pay theirs

Phineas Baxendall (MassBudget): The proposed tax only falls on those over a million dollars; already gives a large tax benefit to those making the most;

Rev Andre Bennett (Zion Baptist Church in Lynn, and a couple of other orgs that I didn't catch!): Invites any other faith leaders to join them up front (several do); Speaking to the moral issue of a just tax system, instead of so many struggling families; education is a right, not a privilege

Cao Ling Zhu: Addressing in Mandarin; translator: speaking for more investment in transportation and great schools

No follow up Qs

Raise Up MA Panel #3:
Community Organizer in Chelsea: a woman of color; a mom to a college student; cannot provide our students with transportation;

Religious Leader: People in our Commonwealth are proud to contribute to an economy that works for everyone; employers need workers who are educated and can get to work on time;

Speaker is from the Small Business Alliance: Says small business often left out of policy-making process; reads letter written by Alliance members;

No follow up Qs

Raise Up Panel #4:
Ann Roderick (8th Grade Teacher): Unfair competition due to money; it's a system being bred in our schools; too many cuts in our schools leave students with significant lack of resources; inequality, competing for school choice spot bc their own cannot meet their needs...and takes district dollars with them;

Melissa Jones (Cape Cod Regional High School): Kids are hungry, abused, homeless; we fight for underserved because we care; not asking for extra funding -- asking for enough funding

(Teacher in Amherst Public Schools): cites perspective of a student with special needs in her school; large class sizes; poor air quality; we need systemic change

Rep Domb: Thank you for making the trip and speaking to this issue
Amherst T: Systemic change will help every child in the Commonwealth

No follow up Qs

(My own public testimony -- which I will post separately!)

Speaker is talking about the good of the Fair Share Amendment and trickle up economics

No Qs

Mark Callahan is President of Mass Building Trades, 75,000 members: sees deplorable conditions of infrastructure; state of our budget and of our Commonwealth depends on investment; everyone needs to pay their fair share

No Qs

Harvard Business School Panel:
Erica Eiderhoven (?) is a HBS student: says classmates will have a net worth of a million dollars within  10 years; morally reprehensible not to pass this amendment; failing and unreliable transpo system; we earned our fortunes because the rules are rigged to our benefit; 'every billionaire is a policy mistake'; tax the rich
Another student speaks to the rigged system; justice and fairness are necessary; we are subsidized by low-income households;

Rep Schmid: TY; you're obviously going to be successful and hope you stay in MA

Mass Taxpayers Foundation in opposition
Q Rep Domb: Clarify: the reason you cite for not doing this is why we were elected to determine the budget process, identify needs, we're not predetermining, we are in the moment
MTF: The Q is how and what will we make those priorities?
Rep D: With respect, the voters are telling us; I'm in the process right now; that's the job for us right now. to prioritize and direct, not have every piece in place. I agree we should be looking at other forms, so when we talk about corporate reforms I hope you'll come back
Q Rep Whipps: When you talk about 'we need a plan before we spend', many don't understand the rural school situation like where i live; need for funding mechanisms in place for local control
MTF: Needs in communities are different; concerned the money might not come in as people expect

No further testimony
Joint Committee on Revenue is adjourned
2:14 PM
Image credit: A fair day for the fair share public hearing ~ mas