Spend Millions to Support/Oppose
Push High Tax, Anti-Capitalist, LGBTQ Agendas
by Ted Tripp
Sr. Political Reporter
Two questions have already qualified to be on the November ballot this year: the so-called millionaires’ tax which is really a graduated income tax change to the state Constitution, and the repeal of the so-called bathroom bill which allows men in women’s bathrooms if they “feel” like a woman at the time. There are five more ballot questions which gathered the required 64,750 certified voter signatures last fall, and since the Legislature took no action on any of them by May 1st, proponents of these measures have to collect an additional 10,792 different, certified signatures by June 19th to qualify their initiatives for the 2018 ballot.
Let’s look at the income tax question. This is cloaked as a tax on millionaires when it is really an attempt to change the state Constitution to allow for a graduated income tax. The ballot question language would impose an additional 4% income tax on top of the current 5.1% income tax rate on personal income over one million dollars, for an effective rate of 9.1%. The proceeds would supposedly go to fixing the roads/bridges and education. The chart below shows an example of how it would work:
The threat, of course, is that if this passes, the legislators can much more easily change the categories to determine at what level you start paying a higher tax rate since the graduated income tax is now established law. It opens a Pandora’s Box for the taxpayers and a gravy train of new revenue for the politicians.
So, who wants this ballot question passed? Leading the campaign is Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of 82 social, labor and religious organizations which seem to be dedicated to extracting money from the most productive and giving it to the less productive. The group refers to this initiative as the Fair Share Amendment.
As of May 22, 2018, Raise up Massachusetts 2018 and the Coalition for Social Justice 2017-18 Ballot Committee had raised $1,966,061 and spent $1,884,453 on ballot questions. The top five donors were the Massachusetts Teachers Association at $717,677, the 1199 SEIU MA PAC at $241,782, the SEIU Mass Council at $198,896, the Sixteen Thirty Fund at $110,000, the AFT Massachusetts AFL-CIO Solidarity Fund at $100,000, and the Coalition for Social Justice at $85,033. Money talks when you want to pass a ballot question to fundamentally change a state Constitution.
It should be noted that past ballot questions to change the Constitution to permit a graduated income tax have failed by large margins five times over the years. That’s why the current effort is cloaking the language as a millionaires’ tax and promising money for roads and education. That was a smart tactical move.
But hold on! As we reported in the January issue of the Boston Broadside, five business groups have filed suit against the attorney general and secretary of state to have the ballot question invalidated, claiming it does not meet constitutional requirements in three separate areas. A decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is due any day now and the business groups feel their arguments have a good chance of succeeding.
So whether or not the graduated income tax question will be on the November ballot will be decided shortly.
Repeal of the Bathroom Bill
A second question that is scheduled to be on the November ballot is the repeal of the bathroom bill. This bill was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in 2016 and would allow persons who gender identify as male or female, regardless of their biological sex, to use the public bathrooms, showers, and changing facilities of their choice. No exceptions are made for sex offenders or criminals. If you complain about the wrong person using a bathroom, you can be arrested.
Those opposing this legislation gathered 34,241 certified signatures to have its repeal placed on the 2018 ballot.
However, the question will be worded to confuse the voter. A “Yes” vote will mean you agree with and support the current law – and are against repeal.
A “No” vote means you oppose the current legislation and support the repeal. Only in Massachusetts do they want to confuse the voter to help decide the desired outcome.
The committee which organized the repeal and urges a “no” vote is Keep MA Safe, and has raised $104,651, spending $104,316, as of May 21, 2018. The principle donors are the Massachusetts Family Institute at $39,400 and the Renew Massachusetts Coalition at $38,239.
Supporting the current legislation and urging a “yes” vote is the Freedom for All Massachusetts, Inc., which has raised $458,617 and spent $333,585 to date. Principle donors are the 1199 SEIU MA PAC at $100,000, Freedom for All Americans at $87,671, Human Rights Campaign at $56,300, American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. at $50,000, and Freedom Massachusetts Education Fund at $39,240.
Only six other states have a statute somewhat similar to the Mass. public accommodation law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity: Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico and Oregon.
U.S. Supreme Court Decision
A third ballot question is to have Massachusetts set up an advisory commission to advocate for amending the U.S. Constitution about regulation of political spending and corporate personhood. What this really is about is getting Massachusetts behind a national effort to overturn the Citizens United v. FEC decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, where it ruled that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited due to the First Amendment.
The committee behind this ballot question is People Govern, Not Money, and the people pushing it are Jeffrey Clements, former assistant AG of Massachusetts and Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.
As of May 21, 2018, People Govern, Not Money had raised $166,935 and spent $163,344. The chief donors were American Promise Initiative, Inc. at $51,715, Jeffrey Clements at $11,500, John Wass at $10,000, Tracy Winn at $5,260, Free Speech for People at $5,229, and John Clements at $5,000.
No word yet on when Clements and Cohen are going to file an initiative petition to limit the amount of UNION money in politics.
Limiting the Number of
Patients a Nurse Can Care For
A fourth ballot question is an effort to establish patient assignment limits for registered nurses working in hospitals. Detailed numbers are given for each area of specialty. The measure is supported by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
The Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care has raised $1,088,886 as of May 22, 2018 and spent $1,084,539 to get the question on the ballot. The principle donor is the Massachusetts Nurses Association at $1,087,586.
The main opposition, not surprisingly, is the hospitals. They have formed the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety and have raised $11,500, spending only $1,502. The committee’s only donor is the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association at $11,500.
Interestingly, the Massachusetts chapter of the American Nurses Association, the Organization of Nurse Leaders, the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, and VNA Care, all oppose the ballot measure.
On April 20, 2018, a 34-page report (http://tinyurl.com/ybr6gd6k) by BW Research Partnership and Mass Insight Global Partnerships, sponsored by the Mass. Health and Hospital Association, concluded that the ballot measure’s healthcare mandate would cost the Massachusetts healthcare system $1.31 billion in the first year and $900 million each year thereafter. The study also concluded that implementation of the minimum staffing requirement “will likely both reduce quality of care and increase inequality in care provision.”
Increase Minimum Wage
A fifth ballot question would increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2022. Not surprisingly, Raise Up Massachusetts is leading this effort to force businesses to cough up higher wages for employees whether or not the economics justify it. While this might benefit minimum wage earners in the short term, it will hurt those who can’t get a job because employers aren’t hiring at the inflated wage rate. The laws of economics will always rule no matter what the Legislature or people pass for laws.
As of May 21, 2018, Raise Up Massachusetts and the Coalition for Social Justice 2017-18 Ballot Committee had raised $1,966,061 and spent $1,884,453 to get the minimum-wage question on the ballot. Do these committees sound familiar? How about the graduated income tax? The top donors to this ballot question were the Massachusetts Teachers Association (I wonder how many teachers make minimum wage?) at $717,677, SEIU MA PAC at $241,782, SEIU Mass Council at $198,896, Sixteen Thirty Fund at $110,000, AFT Massachusetts AFL-CIO Solidarity Fund at $100,000, and the Coalition for Social Justice at $85,033.
Massachusetts currently has the highest minimum wage in the northeast and is rivaled only by several states on the west coast.
Unfortunately, a March 2018 poll commissioned by WBUR radio showed overwhelming support for this measure, so it is likely to pass.
26 Weeks Paid Time Off
A sixth ballot question involves paid family and medical leave. The ballot initiative would give you up to 26 weeks of paid family and medical leave per year, and you would receive 90% of your average weekly earnings up to $1,000/week. Employers and employees would contribute into a fund, like Social Security, to share the cost of the program.
This ballot initiative is being pushed by the usual suspects, Raise Up Massachusetts and the Coalition for Social Justice 2017-18 Ballot Committee. Together they have raised $1,966,061 and spent $1,884,453. The top donors are the same as for the minimum wage ballot initiative with the Massachusetts Teachers Association being the most generous.
You will note the numbers for money raised by the ballot proponents and their contributors are the same as for the graduated income tax initiative, the minimum wage question and the paid family and medical leave. Apparently, Raise Up Massachusetts and the Coalition for Social Justice 2017-18 Ballot Committee pooled their money and resources to campaign for all three ballot questions.
The 4000 member Associated Industries of Massachusetts is opposed to the paid family and medical leave ballot initiative. Organization President Christopher Geehem said, “AIM opposes efforts to mandate a $15/hour minimum wage and paid family leave. Both represent simplistic, one-size-fits-all approaches that will irreparably harm the economy without solving the income issues they are meant to address.”
Restore Sales Tax to 5%
The seventh and final ballot question would reduce the state sales tax from 6.25% to 5% and establish a sales-tax-free weekend in August every year. The ballot committee leading this is the Massachusetts Main Street Fairness Coalition. Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, is the spokesman for the campaign.
The Mass. Main Street Fairness Coalition has raised $328,423 as of May 22, 2018 and spent $310,530. The main donors were the Retailers Association of Massachusetts at $326,673 and M. Steinert & Sons Company, Inc. at $1000.
Opposition comes from former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (who has resigned in disgrace) and Save Our Public Services. The latter is made up of mostly SEIU, teacher and labor unions. The opposition coalition claims a loss of $1.25 billion in state revenue annually with widespread layoffs of police, fire, first responders, and everybody who might have a job with the government. These are exactly the scare tactics that were used by the opponents of Proposition 2 ½ in 1980. There might have been some adjustments in employment staffing after that ballot measure passed, but overall the cap on property tax growth turned out to be great for the taxpayers, businesses, the economy and the state. Sometimes it takes a little pain to reap huge benefits. The same could prove true with lowering the sales tax to 5%. We will then attract shoppers from all the states around us except for New Hampshire.
There is no organized ballot committee against this initiative as of this date. Polls show the sales tax rollback is overwhelmingly popular with the voters.
Stay tuned. Groups and people for and against various ballot measures will start to ramp up their efforts this summer. Get ready to see a lot more money being raised and spent to affect your vote on November 6th. Also get used to the blitz of TV and radio ads trying to influence your thinking.
The Boston Broadside urges you to do your homework and be informed before you go to the polls and cast your vote. ♦