A win for tax fairness in Massachusetts

A win for tax fairness in Massachusetts

Massachusetts voters on Tuesday approved a measure that creates a 4% surcharge on income over $1 million. The Fair Share Amendment will raise an estimated $2.7 billion that will be used to fund education and transportation projects in the Bay State. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s Marco Guzman reports on a long, hard-fought win for tax fairness. 

Instead of slashing taxes and moving from a graduated income tax structure to a flat rate, Massachusetts has chosen to look forward and prioritize investments in key public services, which will put state revenues on more stable footing and help insulate it from the harmful effects of a possible national economic downturn. Though critics will continue to attack the Fair Share Amendment as harmful to economic growth, arbitrary measures of business friendliness do a poor job of capturing what makes a state appealing, like having an educated workforce and reliable infrastructure—both of which will flourish with the new funding from the amendment.

Louisiana has an inadequate and regressive tax structure that has resulted in basic public services being underfunded, and decades-long backlogs of unmet infrastructure needs. Despite this, there’s an effort to repeal Louisiana’s state income tax, which brings in nearly $5 billion a year – or more than the annual state general fund appropriation for health care ($2.8 billion) and higher education ($1.25 billion) combined. 

A win for tipped workers in D.C.
The federal tipped minimum wage allows employers to legally pay workers who receive tips below the minimum wage. Economists estimate this affects 5.5 million workers nationwide. But on Tuesday, District of Columbia voters approved a measure to increase the district’s tipped minimum wage, giving tipped workers the same wage floor as non-tipped workers. The Washington Post’s Justin Wm. Moyer reports

Ryan O’Leary, a former restaurant worker and labor organizer who proposed Initiative 82, said the tipped wage is part of the “legacy of slavery,” explaining that restaurant owners who employed African Americans didn’t historically wish to pay them, forcing them to rely on tips. … Elizabeth Falcon, executive director of DC Jobs With Justice, which helped fund the study, said last month that employers with tipped workers “just shouldn’t operate so differently from all of our other businesses.” “Restaurants are an industry with one of the highest rates of wage theft,” she said. “There’s widespread noncompliance.”

Louisiana lawmakers rejected a bill this year that sought to double the minimum wage for “tipped” workers – which hasn’t budged in 31 years – to $4.25 an hour. Opponents included the operations manager for a Baton Rouge steakhouse favored by legislators, where a 12-oz filet retails for $48, who said the higher wage would be a “back breaker.”

Healthy Homes ordinance falls short
Approximately half of New Orleans properties are occupied by renters, with many forced to live in substandard conditions. Last week the city council approved an ordinance aimed at regulating and improving rental properties in the Big Easy, but the Healthy Homes ordinance was amended just before final passage to exclude regular inspections of property every three years. Verite’s Karli Winfrey explains how the absence of inspections has caused the ordinance to fall short of its goal. 

[Andreanecia] Morris was also disappointed that regular inspections were removed from the amended ordinance, which she said is drastically different from what was initially proposed. Morris, who previously supported the ordinance, said coalition members were not made aware of the amendments until days before the vote and called the short notice amendments a “bait and switch.” … “Removing the regular inspections makes this simply an apartment list,” Morris said.

Reading vouchers to improve literacy rate
Earlier this year, the Legislature created a statewide literacy program in honor of the late Rep. Steve Carter, but failed to provide any funding for the program. On Wednesday, state leaders announced how the Louisiana Department of Education will use a portion of its American Rescue Plan Act funding to make up for the shortfall and provide one-one-one tutoring sessions for eligible children with reading problems. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has the details

The $1,000 vouchers are expected to help about 38,000 students in kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth and fifth grades. Students in K-3 grades will be eligible if they scored below proficient during a screening at the start of the school year. Fourth- and fifth-graders will qualify if they scored below mastery — the second highest of five achievement levels — in the English/language arts portion of LEAP assessments given earlier this year. State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said the vouchers will pay for up to 25 one-on-one tutoring sessions or 35 sessions for groups of up to three students.

Number of the Day
$107 million – Amount of money that Louisiana was able to use to support victims and prevent reoffending because of the state’s historic criminal justice reform.  (Source: Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections via Pew)