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Court challenge to millionaire’s tax

Banner Staff

A business coalition led by the Massachusetts High Technology Council filed a constitutional challenge against the proposed Fair Share Amendment, a ballot measure which if approved would raise state taxes on income over $1 million.

Joining MHTC in the challenge, which seeks to bar the question from going before voters in the 2018 election, are Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The union-backed Raise Up Massachusetts coalition fired back at the corporate executives behind the lawsuit.

“It’s a shame that a few dozen of the richest individuals in Massachusetts are hiding behind secretive corporate lobby organizations like the High Tech Council and the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation to oppose the Fair Share Amendment,” said Lew Finfer, co-director of the faith-based Massachusetts Communities Action Network, in a press statement.

“Instead of supporting the Fair Share Amendment and the benefits that a well-educated workforce and a more reliable transportation system will create for their employees, their businesses, and our entire economy, these wealthy corporate executives are fighting the people’s right to vote, just to save themselves a small amount of money on their own personal income taxes,” said Cindy Rowe, executive director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action in the statement.

The Fair Share Amendment, if passed, is expected to raise as much as $2 billion in state revenue, which under the amendment would be allocated to state transportation — including mass transit, roads, bridges and other transit infrastructure — and public k-12 and higher education. The amendment is being advanced by Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of unions and community-based social justice organizations.

Raise Up members point out that MHTC has long advocated for greater focus on public education and transportation infrastructure. The group has supported raising the gas tax and hiking MBTA fares to fund transportation infrastructure, and supported the sales tax as a way to provide funding for education. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, which are joining MHTC in its lawsuit against the Fair Share Amendment, have all joined the MHTC in supporting an increase in the gas tax.

Corporate tax breaks

MHTC member companies have received at least $144 million in tax breaks and other incentives from the State of Massachusetts and local communities, according to a Raise Up Massachusetts analysis of state records. The average annual compensation of chief executives whose companies received public benefits is $12.3 million.

“These corporate executives have made tens of millions of dollars running companies that benefit from investments in transportation and public education, and they don’t hesitate to take millions of dollars in tax breaks from the state,” said Deborah Fastino, executive director of the Coalition for Social Justice. “Now they’re secretly bankrolling a legal challenge to avoid paying a small percentage of their enormous incomes to make transportation and education investments that will help our economy grow.”

At least 28 companies are members of more than one of the organizations challenging the Fair Share Amendment, including the Massachusetts High Tech Council, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“These five corporate lobbying groups are led and funded by the same small group of wealthy corporate executives who are trying to hide in anonymity,” said Roxana Rivera, vice president of 32BJ SEIU, which represents 18,000 building service workers in the Boston area. “It is simply unacceptable for so few people to attempt to disenfranchise so many in this way. These corporate lobbying groups should immediately reveal the financial backers of this lawsuit so that the hardworking people of Massachusetts know exactly who is trying to take away their right to vote on this citizen’s initiative.”

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