Progressive Mass Testifies Before the Revenue Committee

We’ve told you:  we want strong community investment, paid with fairly raised new revenue.  
We’ll keep telling you!
But, at some point, you need to to act
We will have your back if you do the right thing.
First, though, you have to lead.

from Progressive Mass testimony to the
Mass. Legislature Joint Committee on Revenue

Today, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue had its hearing on the “Act to Invest in Our Communities.” Economists, business owners, educators, and regular citizens testified with their support (there was no testimony in opposition). Progressive Mass was represented by board member Harmony Wu, who’s been working with the Needham grassroots team advocating for new revenue to invest in our communities. Her prepared remarks:

I am a resident of Needham, Massachusetts, where I live with my husband, a Boston physician, and two children in 4th grade at public school.

We chose Needham for its wonderful community features — great schools, parks, safe streets, good roads. Those features didn’t get there by accident but rather through foresight, planning and investment made generations ago in order to make the great community we have today.

And that’s why my family strongly supports “An Act to Invest in Our Communities” because it raises substantial new Massachusetts revenue today to invest in the resources to build the foundation for economic and community strength in the future, as well as bring economic benefits NOW, as we have heard in other testimony today. And we support “An Act to Invest in Our Communities” because it does all of this while reducing  the overall immoral regressivity of our taxes.

GRAPH: Mass. taxes are regressive 

Massachusetts Taxes are Regressive — as a percent of income, the wealthiest pay much less than the poorest.

We support “An Act to Invest in Our Communities,” even though we know that this means our taxes — as higher income households — will go up by a modest amount.

GRAPH: Tax Changes Under 'Act to Invest' 

Under the Act to Invest, taxes as a percent of income stay level for most households,

and rise modestly for the highest earners — who would still enjoy the lowest percentage.

But we still do support it, because this isn’t just about my dollars and cents: it’s about my community and my Commonwealth. We get it — we understand that taxes are how we pay for the things we choose to do together that we can’t do as well alone: I don’t want to build my own roads or dig my own sewer system! I am very happy to have the Commonwealth do that and pay for it with my taxes.

I know that it is hard for legislators to advocate for new revenue, to talk about raising taxes. But you have it backwards! It ought to be hard, instead, to not pay for those services we as a society want and use and need! It ought to be be hard to skimp and cheat our citizens out of quality education, forward-looking economy, reliable and safe transportation and infrastructure.

I know you and your colleagues, not on this Committee, are thoughtful legislators. I know you understand that we cannot run our Commonwealth on the cheap. And I come here today to testify not just as a suburban mom but as a grassroots organizer with Progressive Massachusetts, and to talk frankly about the political landscape and political risks.

As of a couple months ago, there were exactly 2 people in Needham who knew what “An Act to Invest in Our Communities” was — my friend Stacie and me. It’s not like it’s an exciting issue, and it’s not like anyone in the press or the community is covering or talking about it in a compelling ongoing way.

But when we started organizing with Progressive Mass, we found not only robust Needham community support for “Act to Invest” — but citizen advocates who have since held community forums, lobbied at the State House and in district, written letters to the editor, talked to friends and neighbors and are eager to do more.

You know, in the wealthy suburbs, we’re not as conservative or anti-tax as you might think. And when we put our mind to it, we can galvanize, organize and mobilize voters and citizens. With organizing, one person can grow team — a team that acts.

Here’s the funny thing — though you as electeds might think we hate taxes … you really ought to already know that voters actually do support investing in our communities and raising taxes fairly to do it!

We are the ones who elected Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama and rejected the budget-cutting austerity agenda of their opponents. And in dozens of Massachusetts communities, we voted overwhelmingly for the “Budget for All”, which expressly asked citizens if they supported raising taxes to fund infrastructure and services.

We the voters understand what taxes are and what they pay for. We’ve told you loud and clear at the ballot box — and in public opinion polls — that we want strong community investment and that we will pay for it with fairly raised new taxes.  And we’ll keep telling you — but at some point, we need you to act.

It’s time. It’s time now. We are sick of rushing from crisis to crisis , putting out one fire only to rush to the next. Let’s do it right — let’s do it once. Fix the revenue problem, fairly, and fund our future.

So we say to you, our elected Representatives:

We will have your back if you do the right thing. But — for us to have your back — first, you have to lead.

Thank you.

Find out more and start organizing in your town in support of Our Communities!

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