Voters favor even split of millionaire’s tax
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).
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.
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.
NEW STORIES FROM COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE
‘New reality’ for T: The MBTA board of directors is grappling with how to plan for a future that will look different than the system’s pre-pandemic past. During a set of board subcommittee meetings on Thursday board member Mary Beth Mello questioned the use of pre-pandemic metrics in sizing up the current state of the agency. “We’re in a different reality,” she said, suggesting ridership and revenue figures from before the COVID shock to the transit system aren’t the right benchmark to use in assessing the T’s recovery.
– The agency is also struggling to meet federal safety directives handed down last year in a blistering report from the Federal Transit Administration. One focus from the feds was the shortage of dispatchers at the T’s operations center, a situation that prompted the T to reduce service levels on transit lines. The T has been desperately trying to fill the vacancies, even offering recruits $10,000 signing bonuses, but lots of openings remain, the board learned. Read more.
Fusion future: US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will help cut the ribbon today on Commonwealth Fusion Systems’ new center at Devens. Fusion technology, which generates energy by combining atoms under tremendous heat, has been touted as the potential blockbuster solution that can end reliance on fossil fuels. The startup has roots at MIT, where its co-founders are based. Read more.
STORIES FROM ELSEWHERE AROUND THE WEB
With no debate, the Senate voted 32-6 to scrap the eight-year term limit for its president. (Boston Globe)
Waivers from the residency rule requiring Boston municipal employees to live in the city have soared under Mayor Michelle Wu. (Boston Globe)
Barnstable County communities are making plans for how to use $11 million in remaining federal COVID relief funds to support affordable housing efforts. (Cape Cod Times)
Former vice president Mike Pence has been subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. (Washington Post)
One of six candidates weighing a run for Salem’s open mayoral seat fell seven signatures short of the 100 required on nominating papers to appear on the March 28 preliminary election ballot. Robert Bensley has two weeks to contest the city clerk’s exclusion of 25 signatures he submitted. (Salem News)
That didn’t take long: Just weeks after the state opened the door to sports betting regulators are investigating illegal bets they say were made on in-state college basketball games at the Encore casino in Everett and Plainridge Park Casino. (MassLive)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley call on federal education officials to help students who were “misled or defrauded” by for-profit Bay State College, which is facing steep enrollment decline and loss of accreditation by the New England Commission of Higher Education. (Boston Globe)
Summer beachgoers might welcome new bridges over the Cape Cod Canal, but residents near the potential path of a new Sagamore Bridge aren’t as happy. (WCAI)
A decade worth of records released under a 2020 police reform law show the Holyoke Police Department dismissed almost every civilian complaint of police wrongdoing. (New England Public Media)
Former Everett school superintendent Frederick Foresteire was convicted of indecent assault and battery in a case involving the former administrator touching a school department payroll clerk on the buttocks. (Boston Globe)MEDIA
Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy takes stock of the surge in local news startups taking root amid the slash-and-burn devastation wrought by corporate chain owners of local newspapers. (Boston Globe)