In light of upcoming state budget cuts, the Jamaica Plain Progressives, along with the Ward 11 and Ward 19 Democratic Committees, organized a forum on May 11 on taxes, budgets and what further cuts might mean to JP’s nonprofits and to promote tax rate changes.
“If this hasn’t already impacted your life, it will affect your life and that of your neighbors,” within the next two years, said Chuck Collins, the moderator and director of the non-partisan JP Forum.
The sparsely-attended talk highlighted how JP’s many nonprofits might be affected by further state and local budget cuts. Many nonprofits are already feeling the pinch.
The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation is now dealing with a four- to five-month backlog for workforce development programs. Ethos can no longer afford to offer the level of senior assistance it would like to its users.
“The elders in JP will definitely suffer” if further cuts are made, Linda Monteiro, Ethos’s representative, said at the meeting. “Elder abuse has become a neglected service in the state budget.”
Monteiro related the story of a senior who needs an upgrade in his at-home care services. He is not receiving those upgrades because there is a waiting period of several weeks on the higher-care list and Ethos is not willing to cut his lower-end care to move him to the other list.
“Budgets are moral documents,” Collins said, in that they reflect a society’s priorities.
Dan Gilbarg, from the Coalition for Social Justice, said at the meeting that Mass. state taxes are regressive—that is, those who earn more pay a smaller percentage of taxes. Currently, those who earn more than $580,000 pay 6.5 percent of their income in state taxes. Those in the bottom 20 percent of the Mass. income bracket pay over 10 percent.
In an effort to make Massachusetts taxes more progressive, Gilbarg said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz is sponsoring a tax bill that would bring the Mass. income tax back to its 1990s rate of 5.95 percent instead of the current 5.3 percent. It would also raise the personal income exemption to offset the tax increase for the middle class, Katherine Adam, Chang-Díaz’s representative, told the Gazette.
The Act to Invest in Our Communities bill would also raise the tax rate on wealthy investors, but provide a targeted exemption for middle-class seniors. Overall, it would raise $1.37 billion in net additional revenue for the state.
If this bill is made into law, the bottom 60 percent of tax earners—those earning less than $62,000 yearly—would pay less taxes. Those earning up to $101,000 annually would only pay an additional $99 a year, Gilbarg explained.
Massachusetts bans progressive income taxes in its state constitution.
“We can’t think of this as an income crisis, this is a spending crisis,” Collins said at the end of the night. He encouraged the audience to visit inequality.org to learn more about tax disparities.
Matt O’Malley and Felix Arroyo were present for part of the meeting and so were representatives from state Sen. Jeffrey Sánchez and Sonia Cháng-Diaz’s offices as well as city councilor Stephen Murphy’s office.
EDIT: A previous version of this article did not mention the Ward 11 and Ward 19 Democratic Committees as sponsors.