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Public Policy

Policy Update: The $5 Billion Ballot

This November, Massachusetts voters are poised to weigh in on multiple ballot initiatives that will determine more than $5 billion in policy decisions for the state. The ballot initiatives include proposals to implement a state-run paid family and medical leave program, raise the minimum wage, reduce the sales and use tax, mandate nurse staffing ratios, and a constitutional amendment to implement a graduated income tax. Learn more about each of the proposed initiatives below.

It's possible that one or more questions won't make it to the ballot. The graduated income tax amendment was challenged last year on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The court case will be decided in the coming weeks, though there is not a specific date for when the Supreme Judicial Court will publish its decision. The result of that case will determine whether it is on the November ballot.

In addition, the Chamber is an active member of two working groups attempting to negotiate legislative compromises on three of the five ballot questions. One group is focused solely on paid family and medical leave and the many details of the policy. A second, broader group is discussing the interplay of the minimum wage increase, the sales tax reduction, and paid family and medical leave. 

For the questions other than the graduated income tax, if no legislative compromise is reached before mid-June, these questions will be on the statewide ballot in November 2018. For these initiative petitions to pass they each must achieve a simple majority of votes in favor. In addition, at least 30 percent of all ballots cast – including those that abstain from voting on the question – must vote in favor of the question.

In addition to these five questions, there are two additional questions before voters. One is a referendum to repeal the public accommodations law adopted by the Legislature in 2016 which added gender identity as a protected category and prohibits discrimination in public places on those grounds. A second potential question would create a state commission charged with researching and advocating for an amendment to the United States Constitution to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision on campaign finance laws.