On Feb. 6, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments on the legal challenge to the constitutional amendment that would impose an income tax surcharge of 4 percent on income that exceeds $1 million, including pass-through entities.
The core issue for the justices to decide is not the specific merits of the proposal, but whether it violates constitutional restrictions on ballot initiatives. Under the proposal, revenue from the surcharge—which is estimated to be about $2 billion per year—would be allegedly earmarked for education and transportation spending, subject to legislative appropriation. However, Article 48 of the state constitution prohibits ballot questions from designating specific state appropriations. It also prohibits combining unrelated topics into a single question. In her editorial summarizing the oral arguments made before the court, Boston Herald editorial pages editor Rachelle Cohen said, “This isn’t at the end of the day one for the voters to decide; it’s one for the court to do what Attorney General Maura Healey failed to do—prevent this from reaching the ballot in the first place.”
NFIB/MA joins the Massachusetts High Technology Council, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership as plaintiffs in the case. A ruling is expected sometime this summer, and if the legal challenge is successful, the amendment would not appear on the November 2018 ballot.