Massachusetts voters approve millionaire tax ballot question

Massachusetts voters have approved an amendment to the state constitution that will increase taxes on those earning more than $1 million a year.

The amendment introduces a 4% surcharge on that portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million. Those earning up to $1 million but not exceeding that amount will not pay new taxes.

Proponents of Question 4 – including a coalition of labor unions, community organizations and religious groups – argued that the new tax would generate about $2 billion in annual revenue that could be used for education and transportation.

Opponents, including business groups, warned the measure will cost jobs and displace some of the state’s wealthiest citizens.

The state’s constitution currently requires that all income be taxed uniformly. The $1 million threshold is adjusted each year to reflect increases in the cost of living.

The issue had been contested by businesses, some lawmakers and other constituents, who said the summary of the issue approved by the attorney general was “completely misleading” because it could lead voters to believe the money could only be spent on education and transportation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the summary of the question and the one-sentence statement describing the implications of a “yes” vote are consistent with the state constitution.

A similar attempt to collect taxes was dropped from the 2018 vote after a legal challenge by several business-backed organizations.

The court threw out this version of the tax, ruling that it violated restrictions imposed on citizens’ groups by combining taxes and multiple spending proposals in a single voting question.

This year’s proposal – although worded identically – was initiated by lawmakers rather than voter petitions, allowing these restrictions to be circumvented.

Voters in Massachusetts also voted against repealing a new law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses.

The measure became law after the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts House and Senate overturned a veto by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in June. Republicans pressed the ballot question to overturn the law. Voters instead opted to keep them by confirming question #4 on the ballot.

Under the new law, people illegally staying in the country can apply for a driver’s license if they can present a foreign passport or consular identity document to the Motor Vehicle Registry.

You must also provide one of five additional documents: a driver’s license from another US state or territory; a birth certificate; a residence permit; a foreign driving license; or a U.S. state or territory marriage certificate or divorce decree.

The law was a win for immigration rights groups, which had long pushed for the measure, some labeling it a public safety measure. They said the law requires those seeking a license to show they can operate a car properly and have insurance for their car in the event of an accident.

Critics, including Baker and GOP nominee for governor Geoff Diehl, who lost to Democrat Maura Healey on Tuesday, said the law could make it easier for illegal citizens in the country to vote. Diehl and the state’s Republican Party helped lead efforts to repeal the law. Supporters say the law takes steps to protect against illegal voting.

The new law is scheduled to come into force on July 1, 2023. Massachusetts will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia that have similar laws.

Voters divided on two other questions on the ballot.

Question #2, adopted Tuesday, would regulate dental insurance rates, including requiring companies to spend at least 83% of premiums on members’ dental expenses and quality improvements instead of administration costs, and make other changes to dental insurance rules.

Voters rejected Question #3, which increases the number of licenses a retailer might have to sell alcoholic beverages for out-of-home consumption, the number of licenses for “all alcoholic beverages” that a retailer purchases could have limited and limited their use self-checkout and require retailers to accept out-of-state customer ID cards.

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