Voters: Tax the Rich and Big Corporations, Invest More in Transportation

Anybody who has ever waited in a station for perpetually delayed trains, driven through potholes, or sat in traffic congestion for hours on end knows that we have a transportation problem.

Indeed, a report earlier this year found that Boston had the worst rush-hour traffic of any major city. But this isn't just a Boston issue: voters across the state think that transportation should be a higher priority for the Legislature.

According to a new survey from WBUR and MassINC, 77% of voters support raising new money to invest in the Massachusetts transportation system, with similar numbers across regions.

So what can we do about it?

The WBUR/MassINC poll tested various proposals.



The two most popular proposals for raising revenue were value capture and the Transportation Climate Initiative. In the former, the state would collect contributions from real estate development projects near highways or public transportation to help pay for that transportation infrastructure: in other words, the private developers are making a profit due to public investments, and the public deserves to share in that prosperity. Under the TCI, Massachusetts (and other participating states) would charge gasoline distributors a fee based on the amount of pollution their fuels produce.

What do these have in common? They're taxing corporations. In a Gallup poll from two years ago, 67% of Americans said that corporations were paying too little in taxes.

Those at the bottom -- a 15-cent gas tax increase, a hike in RMV fees, and adding tolls for driving to Logan -- are directly felt by individuals. We can debate how regressive a gas tax is (the poor are much less likely to spend *any* money on gasoline), but what is clear is that it is not a politically sustainable foundation for revenue by itself.

The Fair Share Amendment, or "millionaire's tax," won't be on the ballot until 2022, but we already know that this 4% surtax on income over $1 million is popular. The latest polling showed it had 69% support.

But we can't wait until 2023. There are a variety of other ways that we can raise money from corporations and the rich right now.

Raise Up Massachusetts, for instance, is advocating for two in particular. First, we can tax GILTI (Global Intangible Low Taxed Income). Many multinational corporations who do business in MA use provisions of the federal tax code to shift their US profits to offshore tax havens. The federal tax code has provisions to tax some of that income; our state tax code should as well.

Second, many large corporations who do business in MA use various tax breaks and loopholes to pay only the existing corporate minimum tax of $456 per year. That's right: only $465. We can--and should--create a tiered corporate minimum tax so that that larger corporations pay a minimum in proportion to the size of their business in MA.

Moreover, debates about corporate taxes often suffer from a lack of hard numbers--and that's because of how evasive corporations are. Stronger rules around corporate disclosure would help identify bad actors in the business community and allow us to measure the effects of the loopholes in our existing corporate tax rules.

But why stop there?

If we're talking about transportation, we can eliminate the absurd tax exemption for the sale and purchase of airplanes. It makes sense to exempt necessary goods from the sales tax, but last I checked, airplanes aren't necessary personal goods.

We could also raise the capital gains tax. The highest-income 1 percent of households receive approximately 80 percent of capital gains income in Massachusetts, while the bottom 80 percent of households receive only 3 percent. And these high-income individuals clearly reap a benefit from our infrastructure investments: without them, how would they or their employees get to work or to meetings, and how would the goods and services on which their incomes depend get to market?

MassBudget has even more ideas, which they spelled out earlier this year here.

Overall, though, the message should be clear. We need to start investing more in our infrastructure, and in a wealthy state like ours, the rich and big corporations need to pay up.

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published this page in The Latest 2019-11-17 10:42:51 -0500
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