AIMBlog_Logo_Resized

AIM Honors Bill and Joyce Cummings, MassMutual with 2018 Vision Awards

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 2, 2018 9:16:17 AM

A couple giving away its fortune to charity and a distinguished financial services company adding jobs from Springfield to Boston will be honored with 2018 Vision Awards from Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM).

AIM will honor Bill and Joyce Cummings and Cummings Foundation of Woburn and MassMutual of Springfield at the association’s Annual Meeting on May 18 in Boston.

Bill Cummings, the founder of Woburn-based Cummings Properties, and his wife Joyce are among the most prolific philanthropists in Massachusetts, donating more than $21 million each year to organizations working in human services, education, healthcare, and social justice. The Cummings are also signatories to the Giving Pledge, the organization founded in 2010 by billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage people to donate their wealth to philanthropic causes or charities.

MassMutual, a cornerstone of the western Massachusetts economy since its founding in 1851, recently announced plans to move 1,000 workers into a new $240 million office in the Seaport District of Boston and another 1,500 new workers to its headquarters in Springfield. The company said the move is part of a broader strategy to consolidate operations in its home state and give the company increased access to a growing pool of tech and financial industry workers.

The AIM Vision Award recognizes companies, organizations and individuals who have made unique contributions to the cause of economic opportunity in Massachusetts. The award reflects AIM’s mission to stand for jobs, economic prosperity, innovation and a government that acknowledges that the private sector has the unique responsibility to create the common wealth for the people of Massachusetts.

“The 4,000 member-employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts are delighted to honor two people and one company who illustrate and define the value that free enterprise brings to the larger society,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“Bill and Joyce Cummings set the standard for philanthropy in Massachusetts and have built the idea of giving back into the DNA of their business. MassMutual is a 167-year-old company that continues to grow and create significant economic opportunity for the citizens of Massachusetts.”

Bill and Joyce Cummings

CummingsThe Cummings donate millions to charity each year through several programs of Cummings Foundation:

  • $100k for 100 – A grant program that funds small and medium-sized Massachusetts nonprofits in Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Each year, hundreds of organizations vie for invitations to apply for one of the 100 grants of $100,000 each to be awarded locally.
  • Sustaining Grants - Recognizing nonprofits' need for long-term financial support, $10 million in Sustaining Grants go annually to former $100K for 100 winners whose grants are now in their final year.
  • Institute for World Justice – Uses education to help prevent future genocides and other intercultural violence and injustices; and aids in the recovery and rebuilding of Rwanda. The Foundation pledged the first $15 million toward the planning and creation of the first phase of  University of Global Health Equity in Butaro, Rwanda
  • Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine – The Foundation maintains a long-standing partnership with New England’s only veterinary school—providing support and financial resources to sustain the graduate school’s global reputation for excellence. The partnership includes a $70 million commitment from the Foundation, the majority of which has been fulfilled.

Bill Cummings says he learned both the value of hard work and the importance of generosity from his parents. His father painted houses, raising a family in a one-bedroom apartment atop a liquor store and a taxi stand on the outskirts of Boston. His mother was a neighborhood fixture, building friendships as she knocked on doors to collect coins for large charities that once operated that way.

He spent part of his young years washing windows for his neighborhood’s storekeepers, and for three summers as a young teen he sold ice cream from the back of his bike at a nearby Ford Motors assembly plant. Later he purchased and sold dozens of small boats using Boston Globe classified ads. Eventually, he grew Cummings Properties into a 500-person company with a debt-free portfolio of 11 million square feet of commercial real estate.

“My friend Bill writes that he rejects the phrase ‘give until it hurts’ because he and his wife, Joyce, think the better advice is to ‘give until it feels good.’ It’s a fitting observation from a man whose extraordinary business success is outmatched only by his commitment to lifting up those around him,” said Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

MassMutual

MassMutual.FINALMassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits.

The company is one of the largest businesses based in Massachusetts, with $771 billion in assets under management and $670 billion of life insurance protection in force (as of year-end 2017).

MassMutual employs some 3,000 people in Springfield and approximately 7,300 people globally.

The company reached number 77 on the FORTUNE® 500 list in 2017 and was named a FORTUNE Most Admired company for 2018 (a distinction held for the last 18 out of 20 years), topping the list for innovation and the top-ranked mutual company in the life and health insurance industry category. 

MassMutual was also recognized as one of the 2018 World’s Most Ethical Companies for the fifth consecutive year by the Ethisphere Institute. The company was featured on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for the eighth time in the last decade in 2018, earning a perfect score of 100.

Perhaps no company has done more for Springfield and western Massachusetts over a longer period of time while forging more far-reaching business success than MassMutual. From its recent $1 million commitment to expand a support program that addresses students’ out-of-school challenges to promoting inclusive entrepreneurship through a partnership with Valley Venture Mentors, MassMutual has provided a compelling model for companies seeking to balance the demands of a global marketplace with the needs of its hometown.

In addition to strengthening education in Springfield, through the MassMutual Foundation, the company invests in projects, programs and organizations focused on strengthening the city of Springfield through revitalization, development, and social capital.  Signature investments in the region include $15 million of support over 10 years to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to drive education and economic opportunity in western Massachusetts, $1 million to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Capital Campaign to revitalize the Museum, and seasonally supporting the Springfield Museums.

The sustained commitment of MassMutual is even more extraordinary because it has come in an age when most of the other large companies that once also shouldered the responsibility for philanthropy and economic development in the city have long since disappeared or been absorbed into other entities.

In announcing its expansion in Springfield and Boston, MassMutual Chairman, President and CEO Roger Crandall said, "Following a thorough strategic assessment of our operations and footprint, we concluded that our home state of Massachusetts is the best place for us to grow and thrive over the long term. We have deep roots and a supportive community in our hometown of Springfield, and we will continue to invest and grow our workforce in the city."

MassMutual has been honored regularly among the best places to work for both working mothers and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

Register for the AIM Annual Meeting

 

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, AIM Vision Awards

AIM Urges State to Maintain Aggressive Health-Cost Benchmark

Posted by Katie Holahan on Mar 28, 2018 1:30:00 PM

Massachusetts should retain its 3.1 percent health-care cost growth benchmark because employers continue to struggle to provide quality health insurance coverage to their workers, AIM told a state panel today.

health_care.jpgThe state’s largest employer association told the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission that the current benchmark is necessary to moderate health-care costs that remain well above national averages. The Massachusetts Legislature established the health-cost benchmark as part of a 2012 health-care reform law.

The benchmark was 3.6 percent from 2012 until 2017, when it was lowered to 3.1 percent. AIM is recommending that the Commission retain the 3.1 percent mark for 2019.

“As we continue to track trends in health-care cost and utilization, the cost-growth benchmark has become a critical component for understanding year-over-year changes in health-care spending,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“More than 10 years after the implementation of Massachusetts’ universal health care law, employers, consumers and the public sector continue to struggle with escalating costs of comprehensive health care.”

Massachusetts doctors and hospitals have a mixed record of meeting the heath-cost benchmark. Total Health Care Expenditures (THCE) grew by 2.3 percent from 2012 to 2013; 4.2 percent from 2013 to 2014; by 4.1 percent from 2014 to 2015; and by 2.8 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Lord told the Health Policy Commission that consumer behavior plays a large role in accelerating health-care costs, especially the tendency of patients to use of high-cost settings to receive care. According to estimates provided by the Commission, reducing just some of these factors by 10 percent could save tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary health-care spending.

The hospital outpatient utilization rate in Massachusetts is 50 percent higher than the national average. The rate of emergency room visits and inpatient discharges are 10 percent and 8 percent higher than the national average, respectively. And post-acute care discharges in the Bay State are 27 percent higher than the national average.

“And as premium and utilization costs continue to grow, employers have fewer options and less flexibility to keep year-over-year increases in check, raising important concerns about their ability to offer comprehensive insurance to their employees. Without comprehensive insurance, employees have less ready access to the type of coordinated and preventative care that leads to long-term health and productivity,” Lord testified. 

“As an advocate for employers in the commonwealth, we believe that the appropriate role of government in controlling health insurance costs should be to establish reasonable health care spending targets, like the 3.1 percent benchmark, instead of proscribing regulatory solutions. The market should be given the chance to correct itself, and the commonwealth’s function should continue to be the monitoring of the industry’s progress in achieving this goal.”

The unsustainable cost increases are occurring in an industry where experts agree that at least a third of all care is unnecessary – delivered in the wrong setting; marked by a lack of coordination; provided with an inadequate emphasis on prevention; harmed by medical errors; burdened with rules and fraud; or just plain excessive.

Topics: Controlling Health Care Costs, Health Care

Employers to Save $150 Million on Workers' Compensation

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 23, 2018 4:42:08 PM

Massachusetts employers will see a $150 million decrease in workers’ compensation insurance rates beginning July 1 under an agreement between state regulators and the insurance industry.

ManufacturingWorkerSmall.jpgAttorney General Maura Healey, the State Rating Bureau and the Workers' Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau, which represents insurers, agreed this week to a 12.9 percent rate decrease for policies written after July 1. Insurance companies had initially filed for an 11.1 percent rate reduction.

Massachusetts employers must purchase workers' compensation insurance, and rates are re-set at least every other year.

“This is certainly good news for employers. The 1991 workers compensation reform led by Associated Industries of Massachusetts is still paying dividends,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Workers’ compensation rates have declined more than 60 percent since the 1991 reform.

Healey said in a statement, "When we lower the rates for workers' compensation insurance, we protect workers and allow businesses to invest in higher wages and growth."

AIM sponsors A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest writers of workers compensation coverage in Massachusetts. Michael Standing, Chief Executive Officer of A.I.M. Mutual, thanked state regulators for an efficient rate-setting process.

Topics: Workers Compensation, A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company, Workers Compensation Insurance

Economic Development Chief Staying Busy

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 23, 2018 12:22:16 PM

Jay Ash acknowledges that it’s a great time to be Secretary of Housing and Economic Development in Massachusetts.

Ash.jpg“I am getting a call a week from a company talking to me, not about bringing 100 or 200 or 500 jobs, but 1,000, 5,000 or 10,000 jobs,” Ash told 300 business leaders during a presentation to the AIM Executive Forum this morning.

Ash has recently played a key role in the recruitment or expansion in Massachusetts of major employers ranging from Amazon, General Electric and MassMutual to IBM Watson Health, Kronos and Siemens. These expansions promise thousands of high-quality new jobs for Massachusetts residents while cementing the state’s reputation as a global center of innovation and growth.

“What an unbelievable time to be involved in economic development, and what an unbelievable time to be involved in a great state like Massachusetts,” he said.

Ash, an avuncular Democrat who has overseen economic development for the Baker Administration during its first three years, said Massachusetts benefits from a uniquely bipartisan approach to issues affecting the economy. He noted that the economic development bill announced by the Republican governor just two weeks ago has already been scheduled for a hearing Tuesday by the Democratically controlled Legislature.

The bill would commit $100 million to regionally significant economic development projects throughout the commonwealth, establish an apprenticeship tax credit, double grants to community colleges and vocations high schools to purchase equipment and establish a permanent sales-tax holiday.

Ash said the administration is pursuing its economic agenda in tandem with efforts to expand the availability of housing and to address persistent educational achievement and funding gaps. He thanked Associated Industries of Massachusetts for efforts to streamline the process used by communities to permit both low-income and market-rate housing.

 “There’s reason to be optimistic. Let’s roll up our sleeves because the best jobs done are the one we do ourselves.

Topics: Economic Development, Economy, AIM Executive Forum

Updated Generator Rules Lower Costs, Improve Safety

Posted by Bob Rio on Mar 19, 2018 8:30:00 AM

The Baker Administration’s three-year-old regulatory review initiative resolved a major issue for Massachusetts employers on March 9 when the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) broadened the ability of companies to use emergency electric generators.

Generator.jpgDEP’s amended Air Pollution Control regulations ironed out inconsistencies between federal rules, which allow limited non-emergency use of generators, and state rules, which did not.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts long argued that the prohibition on non-emergency use was forcing member companies to rent generators during shutdowns for non-emergency tasks such as electric panel upgrades. The practice was not only costly but dangerous as equipment had to be brought in when the same equipment was on site.

DEP on March 9 changed the rules on emergency generators to mimic federal regulations, increasing safety, reducing emissions and saving money

  • The previous 300-hour limit for emergencies has been removed; and
  • Up to 50 hours per year may be use for non-emergency use (as part of a larger 100 hour per year exemption).

The regulation update is the latest bit of good news to come out of Governor Baker’s 2015 Executive Order 562, which required state agencies to review their regulations to eliminate or modify outdated or burdensome requirements while aligning Massachusetts regulations with Environmental Protection Agency rules and other federal requirements.

“We believe that it was the governor’s Executive Order 562, requiring that state and federal regulations be consistent when possible, that prompted the recent amendments. Several AIM members have already contacted us to let us know that it will reduce their operating costs while at the same time result in enhanced safety and lower emissions,” AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord wrote in a letter Friday to Governor Baker’s Chief of Staff, Kristen Lepore, and Secretary of Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton.

There were several other changes in the March 9 rule-making. Companies should review the regulations for any changes applicable to their own operations.

Questions about the new regulations? Contact Bob Rio at rrio@aimnet.org.

 

Topics: Environment, Energy, Regulatory Reform

Employer Confidence Strengthens, Despite Market Volatility

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 6, 2018 7:40:45 AM

Massachusetts employer confidence strengthened during February as optimism about long-term economic growth outweighed a volatile month in the financial markets.

BCI.February.2018.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 0.4 points to 64.5, setting another 17-year high. The BCI has gained 2.4 points during the past 12 months as confidence levels have remained comfortably within the optimistic range.

Enthusiasm about the U.S. and Massachusetts economies, along with a bullish outlook on the part of manufacturers, fueled the February increase.

At the same time, hiring remained a red flag as the BCI Employment Index fell 4 points between February 2017 and February 2018. Almost 90 percent of employers who responded to the February confidence survey indicated that the inability to find skilled employees is either a modest, large or huge problem.

“Fourteen percent of respondents said finding employees represents a huge problem that is hampering their company’s growth. One-third of employers see employee recruitment as a big problem, while 29 percent see it as a modest issue,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“For the short-term, however, the state and national economies remain strong and the recent announcement by Amazon of a major expansion in Boston indicates that the trend should continue.”

The survey was taken before President Donald Trump roiled the financial markets last week by pledging to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during February.

The most significant gains came in the Manufacturing Index, which surged 3.9 points to 66.2, and the US Index, which rose 2.1 points for the month to 66.9 and 8.0 points for the year. The Massachusetts Index fell 0.4 points to 68.5, but was up 5.3 points for the year and still higher than the national outlook for the 96th consecutive month.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 2.4 points to 64.1.

The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, declined 1.6 points to 65. The Current Index has risen 4.2 points and the Future Index 0.6 points during the past 12 months.
Operational Views

The Company Index, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, was essentially flat, gaining 0.1 points to 62.4. The Employment Index also rose 0.1 points, to 56.4, versus 60.4 in February 2017.

Manufacturing companies (66.2) were more optimistic than non-manufacturers (61.9). Large employers (69.8) were more bullish than medium-sized (62.0) or small businesses (62.7).

“The special February BCI question about the ability of employers to find and hire skilled employees confirms our concerns about the long-term changes now facing the Massachusetts labor market,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, Ph.D., School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs, Northeastern University, and a BEA member.

“Since the end of the Great Recession, total employment has grown by 355,600, the working age population has increased by 326,700, and the labor force has grown by 208,100. In other words, employment in Massachusetts has grown considerably faster than the working age population, and almost twice as fast as the labor force.” 

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said member employers expressed broad optimism about the national economy in the wake of tax reform, but remain uncertain about Massachusetts given the prospect of ballot questions that would impose an income tax surcharge, mandate paid family leave and increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“Massachusetts employers have been more bullish about the state economy than the national economy for 96 consecutive months, but the numbers are now very close – 68.5 for Massachusetts and 66.9 for the nation,” Lord said.

“Economic competitiveness is a constant struggle. AIM looks forward to working with the Legislature and Governor Baker during the next several months to ensure that Massachusetts companies are able to grow and prosper here.”

Topics: Skills Gap, AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy

Lack of Natural-Gas Infrastructure Puts Massachusetts at Risk

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 5, 2018 11:07:11 AM

Employers in Massachusetts pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country, in part because the commonwealth lacks adequate infrastructure to bring natural gas from other regions of the country. AIM Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Robert Rio last week debated the natural-gas issue on Commonwealth magazine's Codcast with Elizabeth Turnbull Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Commonwealth.Codcast.jpg

Topics: Environment, Energy, Business Costs

Attorney General Releases Wage-Equity Guidance for Employers

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Mar 1, 2018 12:42:05 PM

Attorney General Maura Healey today issued much-anticipated guidance for employers on complying with the new Massachusetts wage-equity law that takes effect on July 1.

AG.Maura.Healey.jpgThe 30-page guidance document addresses key issues such as the definition of comparable work, the employees who will be covered by the law, permissible variations in pay, and the subjects that may no longer be discussed during employment interviews. There is also a downloadable calculator designed to help smaller businesses to identify differences in pay that may require analysis.

“Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and its member employers are pleased to have played a constructive role in the development of the pay equity law and guidance,” said Richard C. Lord, President & CEO of AIM.

“We appreciate the efforts of Attorney General Healey and staff who have taken seriously the opinions of the employer community. AIM is now committed to helping Massachusetts businesses comply with the law and we look forward to working with the attorney general on those efforts.”

The first step in that compliance education effort will take place on March 13 and 15 as Genevieve Nadeau, Chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, will join two AIM webinars looking at details of the new law. The March 13 webinar is for small employers while the March 15 session is for larger employers.

The law provides different compliance measures based on the size of a company’s comparable-work groups. For the purposes of the two webinars, large employers are those with one or more comparable work groups with 30 or more employees.  Comparable work groups cross organizational lines and departments and are comprised of jobs for which work is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.

Smaller employers will likely be able to use the Attorney General's calculator exclusively. AIM members with questions about their status may call the Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277.

The wage-equity law, signed by Governor Charlie Baker on August 1, 2016, is intended to promote salary transparency, limit questions to job candidates about salary history, and encourage companies to conduct reviews to detect pay disparities. But the law also recognizes legitimate bases for pay differences among employees such as performance and differences in education, training, and experience.

The law states that “no employer shall discriminate in any way based on gender in the payment of wages, or pay any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for comparable work.

The Attorney General’s guidance document outlines the instances under which wage differentials are permitted. Those differentials may be based upon:

  • a system that rewards seniority with the employer;
  • a merit system;
  • a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue;
  • the geographic location in which a job is performed;
  • education, training or experience to the extent such factors are reasonably related to the job in question; or
  • travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the job.

Joining Nadeau for the AIM small-business wage-equity webinar will be Kyle Pardo, Vice President of AIM HR Solutions, and David Wilson and Arielle Kristan, lawyers at the firm of Hirsch Roberts and Weinstein. The expert panel for the large-company webinar will include Nadeau, Pardo, and lawyers Robert Fisher and Hillary Massey of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. Fisher chairs AIM’s HR-Labor Law Committee.

 

Register for the Small-Business Wage-Equity Webinar

 

Register for the Large-Business Wage-Equity Webinar

Topics: Attorney General Maura Healey, Pay Equity, wage equity

Senate Energy Bill: Christmas for Special Interests

Posted by Bob Rio on Feb 13, 2018 8:58:57 AM

Some members of the Senate don’t want you to spend all those recently announced savings on your electric and gas bills just yet.

solarpanels.small.jpgWeeks after federal tax reform generated rate reductions of $56 million for Eversource electric customers and $36 million dollars for National Grid gas customers, the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change released an energy bill yesterday that will take all the savings back from the wallets of consumers.

Proponents claim these proposals will reduce the threat of climate change. They will not. Instead, the bill has become Christmas in February for energy related special interests. 

The 71-page bill, still under review by AIM, contains unnecessary and redundant programs just a year after the Legislature passed and Governor Charlie Baker signed another omnibus energy measure that brought competitive bidding to the procurement of clean energy. Massachusetts has already committed to a goal of 80 percent clean energy by 2050.  Legislating more will not make it happen faster – it will just increase prices for something we are already on track to meet.

The bill includes:

  • A requirement for the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop a new “market-based compliance mechanism” on carbon emissions from transportation. The mechanism is better known as a carbon tax.  AIM supports imposition of a tax on carbon only if the money is used exclusively to invest in programs, including public transportation, that reduce fuel use. The current bill passes such discussions off to a regulatory process.  
  • A mandated increase in the amount of renewable power purchased by energy suppliers. Last year’s energy bill required the state’s utilities to purchase large amounts of offshore wind, hydropower and onshore wind as part of the largest competitive procurements for power ever in Massachusetts.  The results of these competitive bids are currently under review by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). AIM believes lawmakers should let the current process play out before layering addition regulations on top.
  • An increase in subsidies (net metering) for solar development. The provision sounds good, but is unnecessary. The commonwealth unveiled a new competitive solar program in August that has already  reduced the cost of solar energy by nearly 50 percent. Let the new program work.

Employers urge the new Senate President, Harriet Chandler, and House Speaker Robert Deleo to take no action on the energy bill since many of the proposals are already set in motion. Give the current programs time to be implemented in a manner that creates benefit for the ratepayer, not special energy interests.

Interested in updates on energy issues? Contact Bob Rio at rrio@aimnet.org. 

Topics: Massachusetts senate, Environment, Energy

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Graduated Tax Proposal

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Feb 6, 2018 10:49:37 AM

Lawyers for five prominent business leaders, including AIM President Rick Lord, argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today that a proposed surtax on incomes of more than $1 million violates the state constitution.

Adams Courthouse.jpgThe business leaders are challenging a proposed 2018 ballot question that would amend the state constitution to impose a graduated income tax and direct the revenue to be spent on transportation and education. The amendment would add a new four percentage-point tax (representing an 80 percent increase in the personal income tax rate) on all incomes more than $1 million. 

The plaintiffs assert that the proposal is riddled with constitutional flaws. It combines a graduated income tax that has been rejected five previous times by Massachusetts voters with attractive spending in a prohibited manipulation of the vote called “logrolling.”

And it does something that has never been done before: never in the history of Massachusetts has a tax or tax rate been set in the constitution, making the new tax essentially permanent and unchangeable. 

Attorney Kevin Martin of Goodwin Procter, who represents the business leaders, argued that it is critical to understand the difference between typical initiative petitions (also referred to as ballot questions) that amend state statutes, and this ballot question that would change the Massachusetts constitution and strip the Legislature of its ability to easily amend the policy in the future. Only three initiative petitions to amend the constitution have ever appeared on the ballot. 

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Attorney General Maura Healey and Secretary of State William Galvin. 

The court today pressed advocates of the ballot question and the Attorney General’s office about the issue of combining the seemingly separate issues of a tax increase and funding for transportation and education.

“Why not add energy, health care, pension reform?” asked Associated Justice Scott L. Kafker, who mused that voters were apparently being asked to render a decision on three distinct policy matters within a single ballot question.

“So, what is the unified public policy here?” added Associated Justice Elspeth B. Cypher.

AIM opposes the graduate-tax proposal on a policy basis because it would harm thousands of small and medium-sized business that pay taxes on an individual basis. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue estimates that 80 percent of the returns that would be affected by the surtax include some amount of business income.

The five plaintiffs in the suit are: Christopher Anderson, President of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, Inc. (MHTC); Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB); Richard Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM); Eileen McAnneny, President of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF); and, Daniel O’Connell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership (MACP). 

“We appreciate the careful consideration the SJC is giving this case, which is the first since 1937 to involve an initiative petition to amend the constitution.  Their questions to both sides were thoughtful and probing, and we await their decision,” said Martin.

Conact Brad MacDougall a bmacdougall@aimnet.org to receive updates on this issue.

Subscribe to our blog

Posts by popularity

Browse by Tag