Could this be the year we win progressive taxes?

by Max Page


First, the bad news.

Once again, when all the dust settled on the budget, the Governor and Legislature pushed through takeaways from public employees and continued to underfund public services, all the while refusing to ask the wealthiest members of the Commonwealth (who have been getting much wealthier) to contribute a bit more to the Common Wealth.

PHENOM helped win some modest victories, such as pushing successfully to get the public higher education contracts funded, and some increased financial aid. But no progress was made toward reversing the cuts of the past decade.

But now the good news.

Because of a steady drumbeat of pressure, including from PHENOM, it is clear that there will at least be an open debate on Beacon Hill about raising taxes in order to fund important public needs like public higher education.

After twenty years of tax rollbacks, Massachusetts may finally be ready to have a conversation about the need for taxes to fund the kind of society we want.

Although we won’t hear a word from politicians until after the election, it has been widely whispered that when the new legislature opens in late January, there will be a number of proposals for new revenues, with one perhaps even being put forward by the Governor himself.

PHENOM was one of the first organizations to sign on to the Campaign for Our Communities. Last year this coalition put forward An Act to Invest in Our Communities.

The proposed law was designed to raise significant revenues, $1.5 billion a year, quite progressively. People higher up on the economic ladder would contribute the lion’s share of that increase, and it would be done without seeking a constitutional amendment (something which has failed five times in the past).

It is unclear precisely what bill the Coalition will file in January, but PHENOM Board members who met with the Campaign leaders recently were reassured that whatever is filed will, in some central features, resemble the original Act to Invest in Our Communities.

PHENOM has a crucial role to play in this effort. By holding campus events about inequality and tax fairness, PHENOM can help build a campus-based coalition in support of progressive taxation. We have to harness the power of the 29 campuses and the hundreds of thousands of students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni who make up our public higher education system.

If we are successful, perhaps next year we won’t have to settle for a few scraps from our elected leaders who repeatedly claim that “there is no money.”

Progressive taxation will draw money from where it is not needed—the boats and yachts of the Commonwealth’s super rich—and bring it to where it is needed: homeless shelters, parks, senior centers and, yes, public colleges and universities.