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Berkshires voters backed the proposed ‘millionaire’s tax’ with gusto

Early votes are registered

Early votes are registered before being counted Tuesday at the Ward 5A and 5B polling place in the Berkshire Athenaeum. A measure to make seriously wealthy people pay higher income taxes won tepid approval across Massachusetts. But a “tax the rich” spirit inspired a greater percentage of voters in Berkshire County.

PITTSFIELD – A measure to make seriously wealthy people pay higher income taxes won tepid approval across Massachusetts. But a “tax the rich” spirit inspired a greater percentage of voters in Berkshire County.

The Fair Share Amendment, Question 1 on Tuesday’s ballot, called to impose an additional 4 percent income tax on the portion of incomes over $1 million, with the added revenue earmarked for education and infrastructure. On Wednesday afternoon, with 92.5 percent of precincts statewide reporting, the new tax had passed with 52 percent support.

It won 67.2 percent backing in Berkshire County, though, with only one town unpersuaded.

And no, that wasn’t Lenox, home to "The Millionaires," the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School mascot. Hancock was the lone town in the county Tuesday to reject a higher tax on incomes, rejecting the question 181-162.

In several Berkshires communities, Question 1 secured landslide support. Some of the biggest endorsers were Great Barrington (75.8 percent in favor), Williamstown (75.3 percent), Monterey (71.1 percent) and Pittsfield (69.5 percent).

Four referendum questions appeared on all state ballots — and voters in Berkshire County fell in step with all of the outcomes.

Statewide, 71.3 percent of voters declared support, in Question 2, for dental insurers to spend at least 83 percent of the premiums they collect on actual dental care.

In the 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County, voters wanted that even more — backing the measure with 77.6 percent of the yes or no votes cast (not including blanks).

Voters and poll workers converge at the Berkshire Athenaeum

Voters and poll workers converge at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Tuesday for Election Day voting. 

A solid majority statewide said no Tuesday to Question 3, the measure to lift the cap on retail liquor licenses, which failed by 55-45 percent. Locally, voters offered nearly as firm a no, with 54.1 percent in opposition. With most communities reporting results as of late Wednesday, three Berkshires towns, on balance, backed the idea, which was based on a compromise reached with the Massachusetts Package Store Association that would double the number of licenses available right away, then increase the number slowly.

Those towns receptive to reform in the alcohol sales trade were Monterey (238-231), Stockbridge (493-487) and Williamstown (1,429-1,178).

Question 3 was opposed by a Maryland retailer with seven stores in Massachusetts. As Bill Everhart noted in a column in The Eagle, that outfit spent more than $2 million on a campaign to defeat the increase.

“Leaflets have been packing mailboxes claiming the question is unfair to small, family-owned retailers, an odd stance for a mega-retailer to take,” Everhart wrote. “Unfortunately, well-financed negative campaigns are often effective.”

That analysis raises this question: Did backers of Question 3 see through the cloud of advertising in a way voters in other towns did not?

Tuesday’s results on Question 3 show that of all the ballot questions, this one was at least marginally the most perplexing. More Berkshires voters left their ballots blank on Question 3 (1,658) than on any of the other measures.

Question 4 sought to preserve the new right of some undocumented residents of Massachusetts, through the Work and Family Mobility Act, to secure drivers’ licenses. Voters in Berkshire County liked that idea, championed locally by state Tricia Rep. Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, even more than residents statewide.

The question passed with 62.5 percent of the yes or no votes locally (not counting 1,087 blanks), compared to 53.7 percent statewide.

Eight towns in the Berkshires said no, however: Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, Hancock, New Ashford, Otis, Peru and Savoy.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Managing editor for innovation

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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