Last November, Massachusetts’ voters decided yes on Question 1, which established an additional 4% tax on income over one million dollars. The estimated two billion dollars raised by what has come to be known as the “Fair Share Amendment,” would be earmarked for education and transportation use. Voters awaited the approval of the state budget to see how the new funds would be used, and had to wait longer than usual as Massachusetts was one of three states to approve their budget late, alongside Oregon and North Carolina. Once the nearly $56 billion budget was approved in early August, citizens got to see the breakdown.
More than half of the $477 million designated for transportation will be used to improve the highways and bridges in the worst conditions. An amount of $205 million will be allocated to improve accessibility in MBTA stations. In an attempt to make subway rides more affordable, the state will start a means-tested MBTA fares program. Some people are unhappy that more funds are being devoted to car-based infrastructure instead of public transportation. Climate scientists strongly endorse and urge the shift to public transportation, however, most people in Massachusetts still depend on state roads and highways.
The $524 million spent on education goes mostly toward starting new programs and standards across the state. $71 million will put the Commonwealth on the path toward universal pre-K and in the short term, increase eligibility for families today. $224 million will provide every child in public school across the state with free lunch every day, as well as fund clean energy infrastructure in schools. Finally, $229 million will go toward expanding the MassReconnect program, making Massachusetts’ fifteen community colleges free for those over twenty-five years old.
The passage of this amendment has already shown an impact and it is important to remember that these funds will be available every year to further fund these programs and establish even more.