Rep. Barber files bill to close corporate loopholes, raise progressive revenue, and fill budget gaps
The Somerville Times by Office of Representative Christine P. Barber "Raising new revenue responsibly is a critical tool to support and sustain our recovery," said …
“Not having this additional funding is a recipe for disaster at this point,” Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, told WGBH News.
“It’s essentially $300 million that districts across the commonwealth” will lose, Rivera said, referring to the amount of money in the governor’s pre-COVID budget for the Student Opportunity Act in fiscal 2021. That will affect mainly gateway cities who serve the most kids of color and low income kids and English language learners, she added.
“Those districts were expecting this infusion of cash, which they’re not going to get,” said Rivera.
Nearly half of the undocumented immigrants employed in the state, an estimated 55,000 workers, were at risk of losing their job or losing pay because their workplace had to close during the COVID-19 shutdowns, according to a report issued Monday.
The analysis by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a liberal-leaning policy think tank, said workers without legal status in the country are disproportionately employed in sectors that have experienced widespread closures due to the pandemic. These include jobs that require close customer interactions, such as those at restaurants, hotels, and barbershops.
The Mass. Budget report highlighted state legislation that would offer financial relief to people who hold Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) â€” some of whom are undocumented. Workers can get an ITIN number with a foreign passport.
Almost half of the employed undocumented people in Massachusetts are at high risk of losing their jobs or income because of the coronavirus, according to a new report by MassBudget.
As a result of businesses having to shut down to slow the spread of Covid-19, 55,000 out of the 122,000 employed undocumented people could lose their jobs, the nonprofit MassBudget said in its report. The estimates are likely low, as finding accurate numbers of undocumented people is difficult, the report notes.
MassBudget is urging lawmakers to support these workers through financial relief for those with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, a move that could benefit about 57,000 adults and children, some of whom are likely undocumented, according to MassBudget. Similar to the Federal CARES Act, this bill would provide stimulus checks to those who cannot get a social security number.
In a Wednesday analysis, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center warned that the state’s economic recovery could suffer if federal lawmakers do not extend the PUA program, which runs through the end of 2020, or if policy granting a bonus $600 per week to all benefit recipients is allowed to expire at the end of July.
“Bold federal policies to strengthen unemployment insurance have been a crucial source of funds for many workers whose income has been interrupted,” Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst at MassBudget who authored the report, said in a press release. “If these benefits are allowed to expire before the Massachusetts economy has recovered, a lot of people and prospects for growth will be harmed.”
"Large cuts would erode the health and social infrastructure needed to continue combatting COVID-19, increase an already high level of inequality, and exacerbate the economic downturn. Instead of budget cuts, the state should look to raise revenues to balance its budget," the economists wrote in a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders that was distributed Tuesday by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.
Raising the personal income tax and the corporate tax "are fair ways to do this, since they fall only on persons with incomes and businesses with profits," the economists wrote, projecting that a 1 percentage point increase in the income tax could raise $2.5 billion per year while a 1 percentage point increase in the corporate tax rate could raise $180 million per year "even if the income tax base falls by 25 percent and the corporate tax base falls by 50 percent during this recession." This is not the time for an austerity budget," MassBudget President Marie-Frances Rivera said in a statement. "The economists' letter underscores how public spending cuts would lengthen an oncoming recession, as it would take money out of our local economy that would otherwise recirculate and spur economic activity. Furloughing public employees, cutting state contracts to businesses and nonprofits, and reducing assistance to municipalities and low-income families will take money out of the Massachusetts economy, prolonging and deepening the recession. Avoiding budget cuts through targeted tax increases is the best way to build a strong recovery in Massachusetts."
A group of 91 Massachusetts economists are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders to raise personal income and corporate taxes amid projected massive coronavirus-induced decreases in tax revenues.
They claim it's the only "fair" way to balance next year's budget and avoid spending cuts â€” even as homeowners and businesses try to dig out of an economic hole.
"In a recession, balancing the budget by cutting spending has a more negative impact on economic growth than balancing the budget by raising taxes. Both the personal income tax and the corporate tax are fair ways to do this, since they fall only on persons with incomes and businesses with profits," the economy and public policy experts wrote in their May 26 letter to Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka.
Massachusetts faces crucial decisions about how to fund our public services, and thus I deeply appreciated the perspective of economists Alicia Sasser-Modestino, Alan Clayton-Matthews, and Michael Goodman in their recent op-ed (With plummeting revenues, state should impose a temporary tax increase, Opinion, May 16). As we face an unprecedented economic freefall, cuts to public services will do far more damage than asking people who can afford it to contribute a little more in taxes.
While the authors refer to an increase in the personal income tax to help offset revenue declines, there are many other options to fund the essential services we all rely on. Among them, are dozens of ineffective corporate tax breaks that together now cost the Commonwealth over $1 billion a year. One example: The single sales factor tax break forfeits $180 million per year to mutual fund companies, an industry that has shed thousands of jobs in our state over the last two decades. As state revenues plummet, we must discuss the most effective use of these dollars during this unprecedented crisis.
With so many of our friends and families undergoing economic distress, how we invest in our people and the public good, including health care, schools, and transit will reflect our values now more than ever.
– Marie-Frances Rivera, President, MassBudget
Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, said the state needs to provide more support and guidance.
“Parents should not be forced to work when circumstances such as lack of safe and affordable child care make it impossible,” she said in a statement.
According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, approximately 57,000 Massachusetts residents live in a household with an ITIN filer. To provide assistance that would fill the gaps left by federal relief programs to these residents would cost about $58 million.