Business versus business in millionaire’s tax fight?
THE BATTLE LINES in the debate over passing the so-called millionaire’s tax have generally pitted organized labor, which supports the tax hike, against organized business groups, which oppose it. But now, proponents of the question are trying to muddy that narrative and argue that they have businesses on their side, too.
A constitutional amendment on the November ballot would raise the tax rate on income over $1 million. The Fair Share for Massachusetts Campaign, the pro-amendment committee led by the liberal organizing group Raise Up Massachusetts, released an ad Friday featuring a business owner who supports the tax increase, following up on a release Thursday of a list of 75 businesses that support the constitutional amendment.
The new ad features Karsen Eckweiler, co-owner of Democracy Brewing in Boston. She argues in the ad, which features shots of Eckweiler at the brewery, that raising $2 billion a year for schools and transportation “means more jobs and better opportunities.” “That’s good for all businesses, big and small,” she says. She says making “the richest 1 percent” pay their fair share means “small businesses like ours will see the benefits.”
A press release announcing the more than 75 business supporters of the amendment features quotes from independent small business owners touting the benefits of raising more state revenue. “We depend on good roads for our employees and customers, and Question 1 will mean $2 billion a year for schools, colleges, and transportation infrastructure, without small businesses paying a penny more,” says Netania Shapiro, owner of Caravan Kitchen in Northampton.
The anti-amendment coalition, in a press release, says it has support from “over 75 small businesses, family farms, chambers of commerce, and community groups, as well as organizations representing over 20,000 small businesses across the state.”
The No on 1 ad features a cranberry grower, lobster fisherman, retired teacher, and small business owners who argue that the tax hike “makes no sense.” “Question 1 would nearly double the income tax rate on tens of thousands of small business owners, family farmers, and homeowners,” the ad states.
The opponents are businesses backed by businesses – though not necessarily the small mom-and-pop shops they depict. The biggest donors to the ad, according to its legally required disclaimer, are Suffolk Construction Company, Rand-Whitney Containerboard, real estate developer Sandra Edgerley, New Balance chairman James Davis, and Adage Capital Management’s Phill Gross.
The ad by supporters, however, features businesses backed by labor. The top donors to that ad are unions: the Massachusetts Teachers Association, National Education Association, 1199SEIU, and the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts, plus the liberal-leaning, Washington, DC-based advocacy group Sixteen Thirty Fund.
To what extent are businesses actually supporting the constitutional amendment? Campaign finance filings show the coalition has tons of union support and some small donations from individuals working in a range of fields (many in education). But if small businesses are supporting the amendment in any significant numbers, they have yet to put their money where their mouth is.
– Critics are blasting Page’s comments, with Edith Bazile, the former president of the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts, calling it “posturing from a place of white privilege.” Neil Sullivan, the longtime head of the Boston Private Industry Council, which helps connect Boston high school students with internships and provides support to help city youth stay on track in community college, called a “suburban perspective on poverty” that no one in the communities he works with would listen to.
– Page refused repeated requests for an interview to discuss his comments.
– Former education secretary Paul Reville not only took issue with the substance of Page’s remarks, he called his sarcasm-filled attack on state education leaders a poor example to set, coming from the head of state’s biggest teachers union. Educators in particular have a responsibility to show “what civility looks like in public discourse,” Reville said. Instead, Reville said Page’s comments were “poisoning the dialogue and degrading public discourse.” Read more.
MCAS scores show schools have ‘a way to go’: New MCAS scores show that Massachusetts students are still performing significantly below the level they were at in 2019, before the pandemic hit. Math and science scores have rebounded somewhat from last year’s test, but some scores have continued to decline, including writing and elementary school English.
– “Compared to pre-pandemic we still have a way to go across all subject levels to fully recover learning losses,” said state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley. Riley said it may take three to five years for scores to fully recover from pandemic-related learning loss. Read more.
Train delays ahead: Just as the Orange Line gets back on track comes a new dose of bad news for MBTA riders: The Chinese company manufacturing new subway cars for the system said new production delays mean the final new Orange Line cars won’t be delivered until next summer, while the final installment of new Red Line cars won’t come until the summer of 2025. Read more.
Stop focusing on MCAS: Lowell school superintendent Joel Boyd and UMass Lowell education professor Jack Schneider say it’s not only wrong to measure school performance following the pandemic via MCAS, but we should move away from using the test in general as the main gauge of school and student success and instead adopt a much broader set of indicators of school quality. Read more.
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The former CEO of homeless shelters in Lawrence and Boston is sentenced to a year in jail for stealing money from the shelters. (Eagle-Tribune)
MEDIAEd Yong, who won both a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award last year for his widely acclaimed COVID coverage in The Atlantic, says he’s taking a six-month mental health sabbatical, writing on Twitter that the last three years “have been the most professionally meaningful of my life, but they’ve also deeply broken me.”