Over 157,000 Signatures Collected for 2018 Constitutional Amendment
BOSTON – Workers, community members, faith leaders, transportation and education advocates, and business leaders rallied today to celebrate a successful first step in the campaign to invest in transportation and public education by creating an additional tax on annual income above $1 million. This morning, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition rallied on the steps of the State House and submitted signatures to the Secretary of State that will advance the coalition’s constitutional amendment toward the 2018 ballot.
“With these signatures, we are moving forward our campaign to invest in better schools and safe transportation infrastructure by asking millionaires to pay their fair share,” said Maria Elena Letona, Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor. “The best way to help working families and build a stronger economy for us all is to make sure that we have quality public schools for our children, affordable higher education, and a transportation system that lets people get to work and customers get to businesses.”
This grassroots effort was made possible with the support and leadership of thousands of coalition members and unpaid volunteers across the Commonwealth, who spread the word of the campaign by hosting signature-gathering events statewide. The coalition collected over 157,000 signatures, all without using paid signature gathering companies.
“Our grassroots coalition of community, labor, and faith groups won in the Legislature with the first increase in the state minimum wage since George Bush was in office,” said Barbara Gutman of the Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action (JALSA). “We won at the ballot with the strongest statewide earned sick time law in the country. Today, we take the next step towards winning in our state constitution with a tax on annual income over $1 million to make needed investments in transportation and public education.”
Local supporters have been out every day for months, talking to voters in front of supermarkets, at youth sports games, outside MBTA, bus, and commuter rail stations, at religious congregations, on busy street corners, at community events—anywhere and everywhere as they collect signatures from their neighbors and community members.
“I stood outside supermarkets on many occasions, but more importantly, we utilized our amazing grassroots membership network,” said Kamillah Hamilton, an organizer with 1199SEIU. “Our members, who work in nursing homes, hospitals, community centers, and home care, collected signatures from their co-workers, in their communities, and from their family members because we know, this is a group effort—we all had to get involved.”
The constitutional amendment would create an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income above $1 million. The new revenue generated by the tax could only be spent on quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation. To ensure that the tax continues to apply only to the highest-income residents, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases.
“If passed, this amendment would make a huge difference for students in badly underfunded schools and for students in our public colleges and universities who are burdened by too much debt,” said Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
“Across the state, people need better transportation, including safer roads and bridges, public transportation that works, and safe ways to walk and bike around town,” said Kristina Egan, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts. “Right now, our transportation network is stuck in the last century. For the state to compete against other regions around the globe, we need to step up and invest in modern, reliable transportation.”
“Our tuitions and fees are among the highest in the country, and students are forced to take on enormous debt to receive a degree,” said Kimberly Selwitz, President of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM). “We need to invest in public higher education, to make it affordable for low- and middle-income students in our state.”
“As a senior with a disability, and because I do not drive, I need the bus to be dependable and affordable,” said Gloria Rameriz of Worcester, who is a regular rider on the Worcester RTA and the MBTA Commuter Rail. “This is true not just for me, but for thousands of people.”
The petition must now go to a Joint Session of the Legislature and be approved by 25 percent of legislators (50 votes) in 2016. The petition will then need a second approval by 25 percent of legislators in a Joint Session in 2017 or 2018 to appear on the ballot on November 6, 2018.
Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that works for all of us, collected signatures in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of two ballot initiatives: raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers. In June 2014, the Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation giving Massachusetts the highest statewide minimum wage in the country. Raise Up Massachusetts then led the campaign to ensure access to earned sick time for all workers in the Commonwealth by passing Question 4 in November 2014. Now, Raise Up Massachusetts is working to create a paid family and medical leave program, invest in transportation and public education with a tax on annual income above $1 million, and make sure that people who work for large corporations can earn a living wage of $15 an hour. Learn more at raiseupma.org.