Lawyers are scheduled to face off Monday, Feb. 5 before the state’s highest court to determine whether a roughly $2 billion tax proposal can appear on the November 2018 ballot.
The heads of major business lobbies, including Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, filed suit in early October seeking to block the so-called Fair Share Amendment.
The amendment to the state’s constitution would add a 4 percent surtax onto household incomes over $1 million, generating an estimated roughly $2 billion in revenue that the proposal’s supporters say will be used only for state transportation and education programs.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants issued a reservation and report last Monday, sending the case to the full seven-member court and laying out a schedule for briefs and arguments. The plaintiffs’ brief is due by Dec. 11, and the defendants’ brief by Jan. 12 with any reply brief due by Jan. 26.
The plaintiffs run influential business-backed groups, including the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the Massachusetts High Technology Council, and the National Federation of Independent Business’s Massachusetts arm. The defendants are Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees elections, Attorney General Maura Healey, who certified the question for the ballot, and the petitioners who helped collect signatures to put the matter before the Legislature.
The plaintiffs are represented by a legal team that includes Kevin Martin, David Jacob Zimmer and Joshua James Bone. The team representing the petitioners includes Kate Cook, Lisa Goodheart and Peter Enrich.
Proponents of the surtax argue it will address needed transportation and education investments while sparing all but the wealthiest from a tax increase.
Opponents contend the surtax would harm small businesses and discourage investment in the state. They also argue the proposed amendment is unconstitutional by combining unrelated subjects and mandating that funds raised through the tax increase can only be spent on education and transportation.
“An important reason for this restriction is to prevent ‘logrolling,’ the process by which an unpopular provision is joined in a single initiative petition with a popular provision, making it more likely that both will pass,” the plaintiffs’ complaint said. “Yet logrolling is plainly why the Challenged Initiative combines a graduated income tax - an idea that has been rejected five times by Massachusetts voters - with increased spending on two currently-popular, but unrelated, causes.”