Gardner Auditorium was packed yesterday with activists and elected officials from across the state who came to testify in favor of tax reform legislation. As busloads of supporters from across Massachusetts came to the Statehouse, the auditorium filled up with supporters wearing stickers and carrying signs urging legislators to “invest in our communities.”
While other revenue bills were scheduled to be heard Thursday, testimony in support of the Act to Invest in Our Communities dominated the hearing, with panels and individuals outlining the case for continued public investment in education, local aid and social safety net services that protect working families
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz and Rep. Jim O’Day, would raise the income tax rate from 5.3% to 5.9%, but hold down the increase on middle- and low-income earners by increasing the standard personal exemption from $4,400 to $7,800. The bill also calls for partially restoring the rate on dividends and interest – which was 12 percent — from 5.3% to 8.95%.
The bill would raise $1.3 billion, which supporters say would help reverse budget cuts that have jeopardized education, public safety and other services that communities in Massachusetts rely on.
“If we care about children and we care about education then we have to care about revenue,” Chang-Diaz said at a press conference held before she and seven other lawmakers offered testimony in Gardner.
Also testifying in support of the bill were municipal officials including Worcester Mayor Joe O’Brien, students, community activists, economists and business owners.
Organizations represented at the hearing included the Coalition Against Poverty/Coalition for Social Justice, Boston Mobilization/Suburban Justice, the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, Neighbor to Neighbor, the Mass Senior Action Council, New England United for Justice, the Green/Rainbow Party, the Boston HUD Tenant Alliance, Yes Northampton, the National Association of Social Workers Mass. Chapter, Stand for Children, Dorchester People for Peace, the Mass. Teachers Association and SEIU locals 509, 615 and 1199, among others.
House Revenue Committee Chairman Jay Kaufman thanked the audience in Gardner for their participation in the debate over the bill.
“I want to thank you for framing this for us in a very comprehensive kind of way and a straight-forward kind of way making it abundantly obvious that’s it’s time to have this conversation,” he said.