House adds amendable income surtax duplicate to ConCon agenda

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – A carbon-copy version of the so-called millionaire surtax which the House surfaced on Monday was filed “really to cover our rear ends,” the lead House sponsor said, professing uncertainty as to why it was placed on the formal calendar for the Constitutional Convention that kicks off this week.

Rep. Jim O’Day told the News Service that he is hoping to vote on the proposed surtax on household incomes over $1 million, which advocates have estimated could collect more than $2 billion from Massachusetts millionaires, in “mid-summer, early fall” and he is hoping to learn more about the timeline on Wednesday.

Plans for Wednesday’s Constitutional Convention were unavailable Monday from the office of Senate President Karen Spilka, who presides at the convention. O’Day filed a duplicate version of the income surtax amendment, which the House added to the convention calendar Monday morning. Since that version is appearing before the convention for the first time, it is subject to amendment.

The non-amendable version approved last session (S 5) will automatically appear as the first item on the calendar. The West Boylston Democrat said he was not entirely sure about the intention behind the “dual track” of putting both copies on the agenda, but said he filed the new version (H 86) out of an abundance of caution. “There was some discussion on whether or not any bill had to be filed [in the new session].

But to make certain that we didn’t in any way leave ourselves in a position where we couldn’t move forward with this … is why we ended up with my filing it … really to cover our rear ends, and not filing something on the Senate side,” O’Day said. The proposal passed 147-48 in 2019, and the same proposal must receive at least 101 votes this session to advance to the ballot in 2022.

New House Speaker Ron Mariano was among the minority of Democrats who voted against the measure when a previous iteration came to the floor in 2017. He then voted for the amendment in 2019, when it was revived by lawmakers after the previous proposal was derailed by a legal challenge.

The state revenue landscape has soared since the amendment was first drawn up, and federal Rescue Act money is now on the way to bolster state spending in areas like education and transportation – the two realms the surtax is designed to boost. The secondary version of the proposal, with its ability to be amended, could possibly be seen as a backup by legislative leadership if the carried-over version hits a snag or if support flags.

“I don’t believe that any of us who are dealing with this issue would have any interest in having anything amended to this bill,” O’Day said.

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