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Labor activists seek hike in state revenue

Call for increased corporate tax rate, taxes on investment income

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Labor activists seek hike in state revenue
Mass Voter Table Executive Director Beth Huang rallies labor activists at the State House. BANNER PHOTO

Labor leaders joined with community activists on Labor Day at the Massachusetts State House to voice support for legislation that would raise taxes on the state’s top earners and top-grossing corporations to pay for social safety net services they say are badly needed during the current pandemic.

“We need to make sure we have enough money in our unemployment funds,” said Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT). “We need to help people. It’s just not right that we’re not taking care of the people who make our state run.”

The organizations are calling for an increase in the tax rate on corporate profits from the current 8% to the pre-2010 level of 9.5%, an increase the group Raise Up Massachusetts says could raise as much as $500 million a year. They’re also backing legislation that would crack down on corporations that use complex schemes to shift profits from Massachusetts to off-shore tax havens. Raise Up Massachusetts estimates such a law would raise as much as $400 million a year.

“We’re not talking about putting corporations out of business,” Kontos said. “We’re talking about taxing successful corporations that are putting their profits overseas.”

The coalition is also calling on the Legislature to raise the tax rate on investment income, which has been cut from 12% in the early 1990s to 5% today. Raise Up Massachusetts organizers say a 1% increase in the tax rate on unearned income could raise as much as $500 million in state revenue.

The demonstration brought out some 60 activists with groups including the AFT, SEIU 1199, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action and Zero Debt Massachusetts.

The rally was held at the same time Mayor Martin Walsh led a larger rally that included 100 cars at a parking lot at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. There, Mayor Martin Walsh declared this year’s observation of the holiday “the year of the essential worker.”

At the State House, the labor activists took a different tack, placing a focus on revenue they say is necessary to support essential workers and their families. The labor activists said the economic pain stemming from the closure of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic is putting a strain on working people, but not on the wealthy.

“I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: Massachusetts remains a wealthy place,” said MTA Vice President Max Page. “Not for the 99%, but for the 1% at the top.”

Page said the 19 billionaires living in Massachusetts have collectively seen their wealth grow by $17 billion in the last six months.

“We have to make lawmakers on Beacon Hill make the choice: Are they going to fund safe schools or allow offshore profits to remain untaxed?” he told the activists gathered at the State House.

Kontos said she and other coalition members have met with legislative leadership on the tax package. Although none of the three proposals would affect the average voter in Massachusetts, she said the Legislature will need some convincing.

“I think they need to see that people are not going to vote them out of office if they raise taxes on corporations,” she said.

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