first_imgThe Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out the 2018 ballot initiative to:– impose an additional personal income tax rate of 4% on millionaires; and– earmark those revenues for certain public spending.A majority of the court ruled that the attorney general’s ballot certification did not satisfy the related subjects requirement under the Massachusetts constitution.What did the ballot initiative specifically propose?The ballot petition contained 3 provisions on 3 distinct subjects. It presented those subjects as a single ballot question. The petition proposed to amend the flat tax rate mandated by the Massachusetts constitution to impose the additional income tax rate on residents with income exceeding $1 million. The petition then proposed to prioritize spending by earmarking revenues from the new tax for:– quality public education and affordable public colleges and universities; and– the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation.Why did the ballot initiative fail to satisfy constitutional requirements?According to the court, the petition did not articulate a mutually dependent or common purpose between the spending proposals and the tax. It agreed with the attorney general that the subjects of education and transportation involve areas of public concern that can be characterized as socially beneficial and serve the common good. The court also agreed that education and transportation make up part of the many keys to inclusive growth. Nonetheless, the attorney general’s ability to articulate a “conceptual or abstract bond” between the petition’s diverse proposals did not satisfy the related subjects requirement. A common purpose, the court said, cannot be so overbroad as to render the related subjects limitation meaningless.The court admitted there is no single bright-line test for determining whether an initiative meets the related subjects requirement. However, its examination of the diverse subjects of the millionaire’s tax petition disclosed no operational relatedness among its parts. Therefore, it was unable to find a common purpose or unified public policy that the voters fairly could vote up or down as a whole. There was no relation between the earmarked revenue proposals themselves beyond the broadest conceptual level of public good. In addition, these proposals were entirely separate from graduated income tax proposal. A reasonable voter could not fairly accept or reject the petition as a unified statement of public policy. Including it on the ballot, the court said, would place a reasonable voter in the untenable position of casting a single vote on 2 or more dissimilar subjects. Consequently, the ballot petition for the millionaire’s tax did not meet the relatedness requirement set forth in the Massachusetts constitution.Anderson v. Massachusetts Attorney General, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, No. SJC-12422, June 18, 2018, ¶401-653Login to read more tax news on CCH® AnswerConnect or CCH® Intelliconnect®.Not a subscriber? Sign up for a free trial or contact us for a representative.last_img

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