Beacon Hill Roll Call


Published: 5/17/2019 11:22:16 AM
Modified: 5/17/2019 11:22:04 AM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 6-10.

Con con votes to tax millionaires another 4 percent (H 86)

House and Senate held a constitutional convention and approved 156-37, (House approved 121-33, Senate approved 35-4), a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.1 percent one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million. Language in the amendment requires that “subject to appropriation” the revenue will go to fund quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation.

The proposal is sponsored by Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, and Rep. James O’Day, D-West Boylston. In order to go on the ballot for voters to decide, it needs to twice have the votes of 101 of the 200 members of the House and Senate in the current 2019-2020 session and again in the 2021-2022 session. The earliest it could be on the ballot is in November 2022.

A similar effort by a group called the “Raise Up Coalition” to get the question on the 2018 ballot was derailed when it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Judicial Court which said the constitution prohibits placing more than one objective in a single proposed constitutional amendment that is sought by a citizens’ group. The court’s decision noted that the proposal imposed the tax and then stipulates how the money could be spent.

The current amendment is proposed by legislators rather than citizens and according to proponents, amendments proposed by legislators can have more than one objective and would not be ruled unconstitutional by the court.

There was no debate on the proposal and no amendments were considered despite efforts by GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) to propose one. Jones said that Senate President Karen Spilka, who presided over the convention was intent on gaveling through the proposal quickly and deflected his attempts to offer an amendment. Jones said his amendment would have required that revenue from the new tax be spent in addition to funds already directed toward education and transportation, and not simply replace those funds.

Senate President Karen Spilka said there will be debate and the opportunity to propose amendments when the proposal is debated again on June 12.

Supporters say the amendment will affect only 20,000 extremely wealthy individuals and will generate up to $2 billion annually in additional tax revenue. They argue that using the funds for education and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation will benefit millions of Bay State taxpayers. They note the hike would help lower income families which are now paying a higher share of their income in taxes.

Opponents argue the new tax will result in the loss of 9,500 private sector jobs, $405 million annually in personal disposable income and some millionaires moving out of state. They say that the earmarking of the funds for specific projects is illegal and said all the funds will go into the General Fund and be up for grabs for anything.

“The new revenue that would be raised by the Fair Share Amendment would go a long way in helping to fix crumbling roads and bridges, improving service on the MBTA and other public transportation, increasing funding for public schools, expanding access to quality early childhood education, and making higher education more affordable for students and families,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the Senate sponsor of the proposal. “It’s also the best way to raise revenue that would make our tax system fairer and more progressive, rather than increasing taxes on middle class families who cannot afford to pay more. I’m pleased that the Legislature’s action today moves the Fair Share Amendment one step closer to the ballot.”

“The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance (MFA) stands with the voters, who on five separate occasions voted against making Massachusetts a graduated income tax state, and with the state’s highest court which recently rejected a similar scheme as unconstitutional,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the MFA. “Some lawmakers think history started in 2019, but this policy idea is the most rejected in the state’s history. The answer should always be ‘no,’ when considering removing our constitutionally protected guarantees of equal taxation.”

“Community, faith, and labor groups all across Massachusetts strongly support the Fair Share Amendment because it’s the most fair, progressive and sustainable way to raise the major new revenue Massachusetts needs to invest in transportation and public education,” said Andrew Farnitano, the spokesman for Raise Up Massachusetts. “We thank the Legislature for moving the Fair Share Amendment forward today.”

“If there was ever any doubt that the Legislature would expedite the scheme to tax more, today’s brief constitutional convention dispelled it,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “It took longer to call the convention to order than to actually vote on and advance the so-called ‘Millionaire’s Tax,’’’ Ford added. “A whopping billion dollars in excess revenue above last April’s haul poured into state coffers just last month alone but that’s still not enough for the ‘spendoholics’ on Beacon Hill. More never is.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the additional 4 percent tax. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Paul Mark, Yes; Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes; Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

$200 million in chapter 90 funding for local roads (H 69)

House 156-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The package is a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds.

Other provisions include $200 million for rail improvements and $1.5 billion in bonding to allow for federal interstate repairs to advance. According to officials, 80 percent of the $1.5 billion would be reimbursed by the federal government.

Supporters said the $200 million would help cities and towns keep their roads and bridges safe and allow many vital municipal road projects to move forward.

No one voted against the bill but there are some legislators and city and town officials who say the $200 million that has been given for the past few years is insufficient. The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) said it appreciates that the bill is moving forward because cities and towns maintain and repair 30,000 miles of local roads—that’s 90 percent of the roadways in the Bay State.

However, for several years, the MMA has been seeking to increase the amount to $300 million. “The MMA’s long-term goal is to work with the governor and Legislature on a shared strategy to increase Chapter 90 funding and provide a multi-year framework, so that cities and towns can improve the quality of our roadways and save taxpayer dollars,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith.

Transportation House chairman Bill Straus, D-Mattapoisett, said the current $200 million is sufficient when combined with other state programs to help cities’ and towns’ infrastructure including a $50 million small bridge repair.

“We have increased not just state spending, but the money we provide to municipalities in other ways,” said Straus. “I don’t agree that we’ve flatlined the expenditure. I just think we’re striving to find additional ways, either through the bridge program which I would like to see expanded or as direct budget aid to municipalities for their road and bridge needs.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Paul Mark, Yes; Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Also up on Beacon Hill

Make “Roadrunner” the official rock song of Massachusetts (H 2739): The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on legislation making “Roadrunner” the official rock song of the commonwealth. Natick native Jonathan Richman led the group Modern Lovers who sang the tune as a 1970s ode to the joys of driving along Massachusetts’ Route 128 late at night. The bill is sponsored by Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick.

“Roadrunner, roadrunner going faster miles an hour,” begins the song. “Gonna drive to the Stop & Shop. With the radio on at night. And me in love with modern moonlight. Me in love with modern rock ‘n’ roll. Modern girls and modern rock ‘n’ roll. Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on. Like the roadrunner.”

“I can think of no better song to designate as the official rock song of the commonwealth,” said Linsky. “‘Roadrunner’ embodies what it was like for my generation growing up in the Massachusetts of the 1970s and 1980s. The passionate and candid lyrics take the listener on a late-night car ride down Massachusetts Route 128, passing by several Bay State landmarks, including Stop & Shop, Howard Johnson’s, Route 3 and the Mass Turnpike. ‘Roadrunner’ combines the liberation of youth on the open road with the sights and sounds of our beloved commonwealth.”

The original backers of the campaign for “Roadrunner” were ex-legislators Bob Hedlund, now Mayor of Weymouth and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Hedlund explains that he first heard the song as a 15-year-old working at a local Hingham gas station in 1977. He immediately bonded with the song and years later, although concerned that people might think this is just another frivolous bill, decided to listen to his heart and filed the proposal in 2013.

Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, and former Marshfield Rep. Jim Cantwell, filed a rival bill making the official state rock song the classic Boston-based Aerosmith rock ballad “Dream On” written by Stephen Tyler. Neither bill was getting traction in the Legislature and eventually Cutler and Cantwell decided to end the competition and support “Roadrunner.”

“‘Roadrunner’ is a great Massachusetts rock song and Aerosmith is a classic Massachusetts rock band,” said Cutler. “Since ‘Dream On’ is not specific to our state per se, we agreed, with sweet emotion, that it was time to come together and support ‘Roadrunner.’ We hope the bill passes this session and it’s not the same old song and dance. As a final note, I’m thankful we’ve had this fun discussion and been able to focus attention on the rich musical tradition in the commonwealth.”

“The song is a teenager’s Paul Revere ride,” Hedlund said. “The lyrics capture the perfect mood and vibe about everything that’s great about rock ‘n’ roll. I am hopeful it will get through all the legislative hurdles this year and be signed by Gov. Baker.”

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at


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