To the editor: Town meetings in Otis, Lee, Becket, Dalton and Windsor as well as city councils in Pittsfield and North Adams have endorsed the Fair Share Amendment, a common-sense measure to make our state income tax more equitable and to raise funds for ongoing, sustained investments in education and transportation.
We need this badly. Roads, bridges and public infrastructure are chronically underfunded in Western Massachusetts to the tune of $100 million per year, according to an October 2021 report by the State Auditor’s Office. Auditor Suzanne Bump has called for a Rural Rescue Plan to increase Chapter 90 funding, create a public infrastructure agency and enhance access to broadband. The FSA, which is expected to raise between $1.3 billion and $2 billion annually by levying a 4 percent surtax on taxable income in excess of $1 million, would help fund this shortfall.
We also need investment in early childhood care and education, greater access to vocational education and lower tuition at our public colleges and universities. Again, FSA revenue would help.
Is it unfair to ask those who can easily afford to pay more to do so? Hardly. During COVID, the wealthiest among us have seen their incomes and wealth increase substantially while many of the rest of us have suffered, as Don Morrison noted in his excellent column, "Welcome to the new Gilded Age" (Eagle, May 20). The fact is, the wealthy have opportunities to avoid paying their fair share of taxes by taking advantage of loopholes not available to wage earners. High earners actually pay less — a lot less — than the rest of us. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center reports that the richest 1 percent pay only 6.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the bottom 20 percent pay 10 percent.
While the well-funded opposition to the FSA has stoked fear in small-business owners and farmers, this fear is baseless: A small business or farm bringing in more than $1 million annually in profit is not a small operation, and any business or farm doing so should pay its fair share of taxes. Without public investments in education and transportation, businesses and farms would not be able to bring their products and services to market. Those public investments make Massachusetts a desirable place to live, work and, yes, build a business. Let’s share the burden more equitably.
Jeanne Kempthorne, Pittsfield