CLT questions claims made by backers of higher tax on millionaires

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STATE HOUSE — Opponents of a proposed additional income tax on millionaires claim the group pushing for a new tax on those with incomes above $1 million a year are potentially misleading voters with claims that new tax revenues will only be spent on transportation and education.

“You can’t specify where the money’s going in a ballot question. That’s forbidden,” Chip Faulkner of Citizens for Limited Taxation told the News Service Monday after CLT issued a press release asserting that supporters of the tax “can just as honestly promise a unicorn for every family, a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.”

At issue is the inclusion in the proposed constitutional amendment of the phrase “subject to appropriation by the Legislature,” a caveat that CLT believes will give lawmakers ample opportunity to direct new revenues from higher taxes to whichever spending accounts they wish.

The coalition Raise Up Massachusetts is proposing to add a 4 percent tax on incomes over $1 million, on top of the state’s flat 5.15 percent income tax rate. Sponsors estimate about 14,000 individuals would end up generating between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion in new revenue for state government.

Asked about the assertions from CLT, Raise Up Massachusetts spokesman Steve Crawford said in an email to the News Service that Attorney General Maura Healey “disagrees” with CLT since her summary of the proposed question says, “Revenues from this tax would be used, subject to appropriation by the state Legislature, only for public education, public colleges and universities, the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.”

“The proposed amendment clearly says that this money will be dedicated to public transportation and education needs of the commonwealth and that is supported by the summary issued by the attorney general,” Crawford told the News Service. Asked about the “subject to appropriation” clause, Crawford said “the specific projects are the purview of the Legislature.”

The Legislature over the years has delivered on some of its spending promises and come up short on others in the face of rising and falling revenues and scores of competing demands for appropriations.

“We are extremely confident that it will be spent on the purposes designated in the amendment,” Crawford told the News Service.

— Written by Michael Norton

Copyright State House News Service