Opposing camps evenly matched on millionaire tax fight
Teacher unions raise $10m, businesses just over $9m
IT’S UNIONS VERSUS businesses in a high-stakes and so far evenly matched battle to raise the tax rate on high-income earners.
This November, Massachusetts voters will decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment that would raise the tax rate by 4 percentage points on income over $1 million. If the initiative passes, the extra tax money would be earmarked for education and transportation.
A coalition made up primarily of unions has raised nearly $10 million this year so far for its campaign to pass the amendment, while a group of mostly business people opposing the tax hike has raised over $9 million.
According to campaign finance reports submitted to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance on Friday, the pro-tax committee Fair Share Massachusetts raised $9.9 million this year in cash with another $1.5 million worth of in-kind contributions.
The organization’s expenditures reflect a large investment in staff, indicating that the group is preparing for an on-the-ground field campaign over the next two months.
The liberal Coalition for Social Justice and the Massachusetts Teachers Association also formed their own committees, but those are mainly vehicles to ensure proper reporting when the organizations are reimbursed for staff time and expenses related to ballot question advocacy. The MTA group has not reported any fundraising. The Coalition for Social Justice committee reported $94,000, but $76,500 of that was transferred from Fair Share Massachusetts.
The opposing group, the Coalition to Stop the Tax Hike Amendment, raised around $9.1 million. The biggest sums came from a small number of wealthy business people and companies.
New Balance chairman James Davis donated $1 million, as did the Connecticut-based Rand-Whitney Containerboard company, and Boston-based Suffolk Construction. Bain Capital executive Paul Edgerley and his wife, real estate developer Sandra Edgerley, gave $1 million between them. Many donors work in the financial industry, with Philip Gross, managing director of Adage Capital Management, and the Boston-based investment firm CrossHarbor Capital Partners each donating $500,000. Quincy-based FoxRock Capital gave $400,000.
The committee has spent large sums on consulting fees and is starting to run digital advertising.
Here is a breakdown of fundraising for the other ballot questions:
The ballot question, sponsored by a group of orthodontists and dentists, would require dental insurers to spend at least 83 percent of premiums on clinical costs and quality improvements, rather than administrative costs, similar to an existing rule that exists for health insurance. Supporters of the question see this as a way to rein in high administrative spending and save consumers money. But insurers say dental plans are different from health plans, because their premiums are lower but they have many of the same fixed costs. They say the policy would lead to higher premiums and make dental insurance less affordable.
According to campaign finance reports, the ballot committee formed to oppose the question raised nearly $5 million this year. Of that, $4.5 million was from Dental Service of Massachusetts, the insurance company that operates as Delta Dental. The rest came from other insurance companies – including Principal Life Insurance Company, Sun Life Financial, and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company – with some help through contributions of staff time and contact lists from the National Association of Dental Plans.
The ballot question was spearheaded by orthodontist Mouhab Rizkallah, who has been sued by Attorney General Maura Healey for submitting false claims to MassHealth. The Massachusetts Dental Society later came out in support of it. Supporters are currently divided between three different ballot committees.
Rizkallah’s group, the Committee on Dental Insurance Quality, has raised $888,000, of which Rizkallah gave $851,000. Massachusetts Dental Care Providers for Better Dental Care Benefits, a committee funded mainly by the American Dental Association and the Massachusetts Dental Society, has raised $125,000. A final group, Fair Share for Dental Care, was just formed in August by Robert Leland, a dentist practicing in Hanover, and political strategist Ben Martello. It has not reported raising any money.
Another ballot question attracting money from a narrow segment of industry groups is one that would change the number of alcohol sale licenses available to different types of stores and change the rules governing alcohol sales.
Supporters of the ballot question include the Massachusetts Package Store Association and individual Massachusetts-owned liquor stores. Supporters have raised $803,000 this year, of which $631,500 came from the association and the rest from independent stores, like Kappy’s, Gordon’s Fine Wine and Liquor, Julio’s Liquors, and Baystate Wine Company, among others.
The question is opposed by food stores and the convenience store chain Cumberland Farms. Opponents of the ballot question formed a ballot committee, Food Stores for Consumer Choice, with the forms filed by attorney and former Massachusetts House counsel Louis Rizoli. It has not yet raised any money.
One late-filed ballot question is a referendum to overturn a recently passed law granting driver’s licenses to immigrants without legal status.
Secretary Bill Galvin told organizers Friday that they had gathered enough signatures to make it onto the November ballot.The pro-repeal ballot committee, Fair and Secure Massachusetts, has raised just under $50,000 so far, half from Rick Green, an executive at 1A Auto and an active leader of the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
Supporters of the law are expected to create a ballot question soon, but have not yet begun fundraising.