On November 8, the midterm elections took place. On the Massachusetts ballot there were four questions. The first and fourth, in particular, gained a lot of attention. Concord Academy students spend most of their time in this state and so should keep an eye on local politics and what it means to be living in Massachusetts.
The Fair Share Amendment was question number one on the ballot. The question proposed a change to the State Constitution that would impose an additional four percent state income tax on individuals whose income exceeded one million dollars annually. The additional funds would be used for “public education; public colleges and universities; and for the repair and upkeep of roads, bridges, and public transit,” according to a packet presented on the official website of the Massachusetts government. If you voted no, nothing would change; if you voted yes, this amendment would take effect.
Ultimately, this question was approved, as 1.2 million people voted yes and 1.1 million voted no. What is interesting is that the majority of the voters who opposed the amendment came from counties with lower income rates. This indicates that those most likely to be impacted by the amendment supported it, while those less likely to be impacted voted against it. The argument in favor of the amendment was that it would only impose a modest increase in taxation for the state’s wealthiest residents and that the additional funds would be constitutionally designated for use in education, transportation, or other public resources. One claim made by the opposing side was that those who depended on a single event to earn their million dollars would be impacted by the amendment and would consequently lose their life savings. In particular, one of these single events would be when people sell their houses in order to sustain themselves in retirement. However, this is a rather significant exaggeration, as only 0.6 percent of homeowners who sell their homes currently make enough money to be subject to this amendment. Moreover, the original assertion is simply false; the tax would be adjusted annually and is determined by profit rather than revenue.
The fourth question on the ballot asked if people should be able to obtain a driver’s license regardless of their legal status. If the question was approved, you would need to provide proof of identity, date of birth, residency, and meet other standard qualifications, such as proof of insurance, but record of citizenship would not be required. A yes vote would keep this law in place and a no vote would repeal it.
Many voters in favor of keeping the law were fighting for road safety, while the voters against the law were fighting immigration laws. State Senator Lydia Edwards repeatedly emphasized the main point of her argument, which was that this law will make the roadways safer by increasing the number of licensed drivers who, by their obtaining a license, would have undertaken road safety training. Edwards said that she did not care if the drivers alongside her were illegal or not; all she cared about was keeping her family safe while on the road. However, there were those on the opposing side who were overtly concerned about the immigration issue, believing “the bill is patently unfair to those who have taken the time to immigrate to our great country via legal means” and that the bill would make Massachusetts a magnet for undocumented migrants. In response, other supporters of the law argued for granting those who are here unlawfully in the nation some semblance of documentation, neither a federal ID, which will be required to board aircraft in the spring, nor the right to vote, but simply proof that they existed.
With 1.2 million people who voted yes and one million people who voted no, the result of this ballot question was to keep the law in place. Given the sizable liberal population of Massachusetts most likely voting yes, the result on this ballot was not very shocking, but the question’s origin is intriguing. The law was initially proposed in recent years, vetoed by Governer Baker, and overridden by three-fourths majority of Democrats in the State House and Senate. The state Republican party then launched a campaign to repeal the statute, and after gathering enough signatures on the petition, it was included on this year’s ballot. This may be an omen of looming debates in the future.