What do liquor stores, driver’s licenses, dental insurance and millionaires have in common? They are all on the Massachusetts ballot this year.
When Massachusetts voters head to the polls on Election Day, cast their ballots early or cast mail-in ballots, they’re not just voting for a new governor, local leaders and other officials. Voters will also consider four issues with statewide impacts.
issue 1 has to do with amending the Massachusetts Constitution to add an additional 4% tax on the portion of annual taxable income over $1 million whose income is spent on education and transportation.
Ballot question supporters say it’s important that Massachusetts’ top 1% pay their fair share, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, income from that tax rate will be critical to supporting education and transportation infrastructure.
Opponents of the question argue that it will hurt businesses and the state’s economic competitiveness, and gives lawmakers too much flexibility to appropriate new tax revenues in the way they are drafted.
QUESTION 1: Voting YES would approve the addition of this income tax. Voting NO would make no change to the Commonwealth constitution regarding income tax.
Massachusetts is one of ten flat-rate states, which means taxpayers pay the same rate on their taxable income, regardless of income. In Massachusetts, that rate is 5% for those earning $8,000 or more per year. Thirty-three states already have a progressive income tax, which means those who earn more pay more personal income taxes. Question 1 would keep the income tax rate at 5% and add an additional 4% tax only on income brackets over $1 million.
But why a constitutional amendment? The Massachusetts income tax rate is established in the state constitution, so any changes must be passed by constitutional amendment. If the question sounds familiar, it may be because constitutional amendments must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions before being submitted to voters for approval, which means that this electoral issue has been a legislative priority for several years. .
Millions have been spent supporting and opposing the millionaire tax. Committees supporting the issue raised $24.9 million and those opposing it raised $13.7 million, according to the state’s campaign finance database.
Supporters and opponents of issue 2 on the ballot also raised millions. At issue is the regulation of dental insurance rates by the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, which requires dental insurance companies to spend at least 83% of premiums on patient care rather than administrative expenses.
QUESTION 2: Voting YES would approve the proposed regulation of the dental industry. Voting NO would make no changes to dental insurance regulations.
Proponents of Question 2 argue that dental insurance should be regulated in the same way as medical insurance, prioritizing premium expenditures for patient care. Those who oppose question 2 argue that dental insurance works very differently from medical insurance and that the question as worded would result in increased premium costs for patients.
issue 3 has flown largely under the radar. The issue is considering increasing the number of licenses a single retailer can hold for off-premises alcohol consumption, thereby allowing more retailers, such as liquor stores, package stores, convenience stores and grocery stores , to sell alcohol. The issue also considers banning self-service payment kiosks for selling alcohol and changing the structure of fines for retailers who are not in compliance.
QUESTION 3: Voting YES would increase the number of liquor licenses available to retailers, such as grocery stores and package stores, ban self-checkouts for liquor sales, and restructure fines for non-compliant retailers. Voting NO would not change the current law.
Those who oppose the ballot question point out that passing Question 3 could hurt mom-and-pop stores and support big retailers. Meanwhile, those supporting Question 3 suggest that the updated fine structure and ban on self-checkouts improves public safety.
If question 3 is accepted, the fines structure for non-compliance for retailers would change from based only on alcohol sales to all retail sales. Opponents point out that this proposed structure disproportionately impacts grocery stores and other retailers whose alcohol sales represent a small portion of overall revenue, and that the current fines structure based solely on alcohol sales is fairer.
question 4 on the Massachusetts ballot is a referendum petition to repeal a recently passed Massachusetts law allowing all residents, regardless of proof of legal presence in the United States, to obtain a driver’s license. While the law itself is simple, the wording of the question has confused voters.
QUESTION 4: Voting YES would make no change to the current law. Voting NO would repeal the current law allowing eligible Massachusetts residents to obtain a driver’s license.
The law, known as the Work and Family Mobility Act, was passed by the Massachusetts legislature in June this year after the legislature voted to override the governor’s veto. Massachusetts is the 17e State to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license. Other states with similar laws, including neighboring Connecticut which passed their law in 2015, have noticed a drop in hit and run crashes.
Fair and Secure Massachusetts, which proposed Question 4 to repeal the law, argues that the Motor Vehicle Registry is unable to verify documents from other countries. Proponents point out that the RMV already assesses driver’s license transfers from other countries.
Make a plan to vote! View your sample ballot online before you go to the polls. There may be local voting questions in addition to the four statewide questions. A summary of each statewide voting question, including arguments for and against the question, can be found on the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s website.
Public Policy and Advocacy Manager
As a public policy and advocacy officer, Maggie focuses on advancing local, state, and federal policies to support and grow the life sciences industry in Massachusetts. Maggie works with representatives from MassBio member companies to lead and facilitate position-specific policy working groups and roundtables.
Prior to joining MassBio in 2021, Maggie spent several years in the Massachusetts Senate, most recently serving as Chief of Staff and working on legislation relating to transportation, housing, and criminal justice reform. Previously, Maggie worked in the office of the President of the Massachusetts Senate.
Maggie holds a Master of Arts in Applied Policy and a Bachelor of Science in Law and Public Policy from Suffolk University. Maggie’s graduate thesis examined voter turnout and voter accessibility through state and federal policies.
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