Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III Chose Not To Pay Voluntary Income Tax Despite Calls For Massive Spending Increases

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/07/24/ed-markey-and-joe-kennedy-iii-chose-not-to-pay-voluntary-income-tax-despite-calls-for-massive-spending-increases/

U.S. Senator Ed Markey and U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III agree on just about every issue — even when it comes to paying their taxes.

When it comes to Massachusetts state income tax, neither pays any more than he has to.

The two are running against each other to be the Democratic nominee for a U.S. Senate seat representing Massachusetts. Whichever of them wins the September 1 primary will be the heavy favorite to win the general election in November. Each calls for increased spending but chooses not to pay more in taxes when presented the opportunity.

In the past week, Markey and Kennedy have both released their tax returns. For Markey that includes returns for calendar years 2013 to 2019; Kennedy has released his 2013 to 2018 returns.

Both candidates support the Green New Deal, which critics say could cost as much as $93 trillion over 10 years; and Medicare-for-All, projected to cost more than $5 trillion per year.

For reference, the federal government’s fiscal year 2019 budget included spending $4.4 trillion against $3.5 trillion in tax revenue resulting in a $984 billion deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In other words, if either candidate helps enact the plans they agree on, the federal government would need to raise taxes — dramatically.

They’ve each acknowledged the need to increase government spending to enact their agendas, as well.

On June 8, for example, Markey tweeted out, “Our communities need resources that will build them up, not tear them down. Let’s invest in education, public health, and social workers. Let’s prioritize programs and institutions in our budgets that will heal our neighborhoods, not harm them. We cannot wait any longer.”

And in April, Kennedy tweeted about the need to increase infrastructure spending. He wrote, “Construction workers cannot go without health care during a pandemic. Workers cannot lose their retirement plans. We need to continue to invest in our infrastructure to keep our nation moving.”

Since both are current members of Congress, each talks more about federal spending than state spending. But the result of the policies both support is more expensive government.

So if Markey and Kennedy want the government to increase spending sharply, does that mean they’re willing to pay more in taxes than the law says they must?

Apparently not.

Neither Markey nor Kennedy has in recent years paid the optional higher state income tax rate available to taxpayers in Massachusetts, according to tax returns released this week.

Since 2002, taxpayers in Massachusetts have had the chance to pay 5.85 percent of their taxable income to the state instead of the lower rates that have been in effect since then.

Yet tax returns for both candidate show that they paid the lower state income tax rate each year.

That means that Markey had the chance to give the Commonwealth an extra $7,038 in total between 2013 and 2019, and Kennedy could have contributed an additional $12,307 in total between 2013 and 2018.

Here’s a breakdown of the candidates’ state income tax payments comparing the mandatory lower rate and the optional higher rate each year:

In 2013, Markey went with $8,025 for his state income tax rather than the $9,009. A year later, he went with $7,984 instead of $8,982. In 2015, Markey chose to pay $6,912 rather than $7,852. Then in 2016, he chose to pay $6,586 — not $7,554. Markey then paid $7,234 in 2017 rather than $8,298; $6,913 in 2018 instead of $7,930; and $6,737 last year — not $7,804.

As for Kennedy, he went with $14,761 in state income tax in 2013 instead of $16,448; $16,798 in 2014 rather than $18,897; $16,954 in 2015 — not $19,258; $15,223 in 2016 as opposed to $17,461; $12,728 in 2017 instead of $14,600; and $14,330 in 2018 when he had the choice of going with $16,437.

For reference, the standard Massachusetts state income tax was 5.25 percent in 2013; 5.2 percent in 2014; 5.15 percent in 2015; 5.1 percent in 2016, 2017, and 2018; and 5.05 percent in 2019.

It’s rare for people to pay the Commonwealth the higher optional 5.85 percent tax rate. According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, 1,663 people did in 2015 (out of 3,783,209 returns), 1,619 did in 2016 (out of 3,642,896 returns), and 1,275 did in 2017 (out of 3,175,892 returns). That means about 4 out of every 10,000 taxpayers capitalize on the opportunity.

It’s something U.S. Senator. Elizabeth Warren did not do until 2017, and Jesse Mermell, a Brookline Democrat running for Congress in Massachusetts’s Fourth Congressional District (Kennedy’s current seat), has not done, according to the tax returns she recently released.

Bay Staters have had the opportunity to pay more in state income tax in 2002. In 2000, the Bay State voted to lower its state income tax to 5 percent — which it finally reached this year — from 5.85 percent. Since over a million people voted to maintain the higher state income tax rate, Chip Ford of Citizens for Limited Taxation decided the state should allow people to keep paying the old rate, if they wished. Fran Marini (R-Hanson), the House minority leader at the time, then adopted Ford’s idea as an amendment onto the state budget for 2002, establishing the new tax.

Markey and Kennedy’s campaigns could not be reached for comment on Thursday.