Voters favor even split of millionaire’s tax 

Two-thirds think surtax proceeds should go into a trust fund

WHEN MASSACHUSETTS VOTERS approved a new surtax on income over $1 million last year, it was clear what that money was supposed to go to: transportation and education. But how much should go to each? 

A new poll from The MassINC Polling Group (topline, crosstabs) finds that just under half of voters (47 percent) favor an even split between the two areas of spending. Among the rest there was a slight preference for education: 21 percent favored more money for education and some transportation, compared to 10 percent who wanted more for transportation. Only a few voters wanted to see the money go only to transportation or education exclusively with nothing for the other priority (7 percent each). Massachusetts voters have remained remarkably consistent on the issue, with distribution of opinion in the new poll nearly identical to a previous version of the question MPG asked in December 2021.

An even split is the top choice across demographic groups in the poll and is preferred by about half of women (51 percent) and those 60 or older (53 percent). The next most popular option, spending more on education and some on transportation, is also consistent across groups but is highest among Democrats and among those under age 45, a group that is more likely to have kids in school (26 percent each). Non-white respondents were also more likely to want more money spent on education (27 percent versus 19 percent among white respondents). 

Regardless of their spending preferences, voters are in broad agreement about keeping the surtax separate from other state revenues. Two-thirds (67 percent) say the income surtax proceeds should flow into a trust fund specifically for education and transportation. Only 19 percent want it to go into the general fund with other tax dollars. The trust fund proposal gets majority support across every demographic group surveyed. 

The poll comes as lawmakers and advocates begin to hash out how the new tax will be implemented, accounted for, and ultimately spent. Both the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and the center-right Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation have called for directing the surtax into one or more trust funds. This would allow for better tracking of how these funds will be allocated within the budget through line-item appropriations or operating transfers,” argued MassBudget, in a memo to the Healey administration.  

Meet the Author

Richard Parr

Research director, MassINC Polling Group
Figuring out how the revenue will be spent will likely be more controversial. MPG frequently polls on transportation and education topics, and the price tags of policy proposals that garner majority support far exceed the amount of money the new surtax is likely to bring to state coffers, estimated to be $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion per year. From getting the MBTA back on track to helping students catch up on learning loss from the pandemic, the to-do list in both transportation and education gets long, and pricey, fast. 

We’ll get the first hint of how Beacon Hill leaders are planning to use the surtax when Gov. Maura Healey unveils her first budget in a few weeks. As lawmakers and advocates gear up to push for their spending priorities for this new revenue, they should know that public opinion starts out pretty evenly balanced between transportation and education.