‘Millionaire tax’ and pot legalization sponsors file signatures, point to revenue potential
By NBP Staff | December 1, 2015, 18:00 EDT
BOSTON – Massachusetts voters may soon get a chance to decide whether to raise state revenue by taxing the rich, legalizing and taxing marijuana, or both.
Supporters of two ballot initiatives, one that would impose a state “millionaire tax” and one that would legalize recreational use of marijuana, both claim their proposals would add cash to state coffers. Sponsors of the questions, which were certified by Attorney General Maura Healey in September, each submitted more than the required 64,750 certified signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Boston on Tuesday.
The tax proposal, in the form of an amendment to the state constitution, would add a 4 percent tax on all income over $1 million and is sponsored by a broad coalition of liberal groups and labor unions calling themselves Raise Up Massachusetts. Adding the tax to the existing 5.15 percent flat rate on all income would mean that earnings over $1 million would be taxed at a total state rate of 9.15 percent.
Currently, Massachusetts is one of eight states with a flat-rate income tax. Bay State voters in 1994 rejected by a 2-1 margin a ballot initiative which would have implemented a graduated income tax instead.
The new ballot measure’s proponents claim it would generate between $1.3 and $1.4 billion in revenue for transportation and education. But Citizens for Limited Taxation, which opposes the proposal, says the sponsors have misled voters with claims that the additional revenue will only be spent on certain items. The ballot question would not legally bind the Legislature to use the money for those purposes, and the initiative includes the caveat, “subject to appropriation by the state Legislature.”
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group sponsoring the pot legalization measure, told the NewBostonPost they submitted at least 75,000 certified signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday, ahead of the Wednesday deadline. The pot legalization measure would permit private marijuana use by adults and tax sales at 10 percent (a 3.75 percent excise tax would be imposed on top of the current 6.25 percent Massachusetts sales tax). Local jurisdictions would have permission to add an additional 2 percent sales tax.
Supporters of the marijuana initiative claim that it too would earn money for the state, arguing that marijuana sales in Colorado, where recreational use is legal, generated more than $70 million in revenue in the 12 month period that ended June 30.
Pro-marijuana measures have historically been opposed by police groups. In 2012, the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association opposed a ballot initiative authorizing the distribution of the medical marijuana. It passed.
Proposals with enough certified signatures will next move to Beacon Hill, where lawmakers have until the first Wednesday in May to act on the measures. Should the Legislature fail to act, supporters will have an opportunity to gather still more signatures to put the questions to voters in the form of a ballot question.