Massachusetts Voters Will Decide Whether to Change Constitution, Allow Income Surtax

Jun 9, 2021

Updated at 3:04 p.m.

The Massachusetts House and Senate, meeting jointly in a Constitutional Convention, voted 159-41 Wednesday to let voters decide on the 2022 statewide ballot whether to impose a new 4% surtax on annual household income over $1 million.

Democrats on Beacon Hill have been pursuing the tax policy change for years. Supporters say the surtax could generate more than $2 billion per year, earmarked for education and transportation, in Massachusetts without dipping into the pockets of most residents.

Before the 200 elected representatives and senators voted, debate on the topic followed the same contours that have defined the issue for the last several years.

Supporters like Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Jim O'Day argued that the amendment is necessary to combat income inequality in Massachusetts.

Opponents Minority Leaders Rep. Brad Jones and Sen. Bruce Tarr cautioned that the surtax will likely affect more than the roughly 20,000 taxpayers who already report household income over $1 million, and warned that it could lead to an exodus of wealthy Bay Staters.

The vote marks the successful conclusion of the legislative process for surtax supporters led by Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition of labor, community and faith-based groups that has secured minimum wage increases, a new paid family and medical leave program and guaranteed earned sick time in recent years.

It also kicks off what is likely to be a donnybrook of a ballot campaign around the proposed constitutional amendment to increase taxes on the wealthy, one that will coincide with a campaign governor.