On November 8, voters across the country will head to the polls for the 2022 midterm elections. As well as electing someone from their district to serve in the House of Representatives and electing a new governor, Massachusetts voters will vote on four ballot questions. The language on the ballot can be confusing for many voters, often using professional jargon that’s hard to understand without prior knowledge. Here’s a rundown of the ballot questions and the cases for and against each of the proposed changes.
Question 1: Additional Tax on Income Over $1 Million
Question 1, whose proposed change is commonly referred to as the “Millionaire Tax,” has been a controversial question for much of the election cycle. This question proposes adding an additional 4% income tax on any income over $1 million, with that level adjusted annually by the same method used to adjust federal income tax brackets. The money generated from this tax would be used for public education and transportation.
Argument in Favor (YES vote): Proponents say that current tax rules have ways for multimillionaires to pay a smaller share in taxes than those that make less than $1 million, which is not fair. Instituting the millionaire tax makes sure the highest earners in Massachusetts pay their fair share. Additionally, with the money going to public education and transportation, every child can go to a great school and everyone can travel on safe roads and have access to public transportation.
Argument Against (NO vote): Many small business owners, family farmers, and retirees are against question 1 because it nearly doubles the state income tax rate for them, as it treats one-time earnings (sale of homes, inheritances, investments, businesses) as income, thrusting them into a higher tax bracket when they rely on this income for retirement. Massachusetts also already has a large budget surplus, so the tax hike is not necessary.
Question 2: Regulations on Dental Insurance
Question 2 is about placing regulations on dental insurance. The proposed change would force insurers to spend at least 83% of their revenue on patient care or providing refunds, as there is not a minimum threshold in state law right now. It would also increase transparency, forcing insurers to share their financial data with the state so the state can make sure they are following the minimum set.
Argument in Favor (YES vote): Proponents say that the regulation is better for patients and makes sure companies don’t get too greedy with the money they get from insurance payments, using it to actually benefit their patients, which studies have shown some companies do not. They also point to the fact that medical insurance is regulated in a similar manner, so dental insurance should be as well. They also argue that the changes could lower insurance payments and co-pays as well.
Argument Against (NO vote): Many of those against the proposed regulations say that it will increase costs of insurance premiums. One independent study found that it caused a 38% increase. A similar law was repealed by the Massachusetts legislature in 2011 because it was overly burdensome and had no real benefits. The law simply decreases choice and there are no similar laws anywhere else in the nation.
Question 3: Expanded Availability of Licenses to Sell Alcohol
Question 3 proposes, among other things, doubling the amount of liquor licenses a company or individual can hold from nine to eighteen. This change would be done over time, gradually increasing until the number hits 18 in 2031. An individual or company could only hold seven “all alcoholic beverages” licenses, meaning they could only sell a combination of beer, wine, and hard liquor at seven locations. There would also be increased fines on stores that sell alcohol to minors. The question would also prohibit the purchase of alcohol at self-checkout stations and make out-of-state driver’s licenses a valid form of identification when buying alcohol.
Argument in Favor (YES vote): Proponents argue that this allows for more convenient access to alcohol for Massachusetts residents, since the increase in licenses will likely make more alcohol available at convenience and grocery stores. It also enhances public safety by increasing many fines for stores that sell to minors and prohibiting buying alcohol at self-checkout. It could also facilitate increased tourism by allowing people with out-of-state driver’s licenses to buy alcohol.
Argument Against (NO vote): Opponents say that although Massachusetts’ alcohol laws need reform, this ballot measure is not the answer. It is a complex problem and this question presents an incomplete answer by unfairly penalizing stores that sell more than just alcohol and decreasing the number of full liquor licenses retailers can own. Overall, it is not fair to alcohol sellers and does not give consumers that much more choice.
Question 4: Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants
Question 4 asks whether or not the state should keep its new law that will allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses beginning next year. People without legal status can apply for a driver’s license starting July 1, 2023 and will have to provide 2 forms of identification including a foreign passport or consular identification document. Previously, the bill passed into law over Governor Charlie Baker’s veto, but has continued to be controversial since.
Argument in Favor (YES vote): Proponents argue that this is a practical measure that allows people already here to participate in daily life. In other states that have passed similar laws, hit-and-run accidents have significantly decreased. All 42 Massachusetts police chiefs in the Massachusetts Major Cities Chief of Police Association support this law because it allows all families to legally and safely drive to school and work, making the jobs of law enforcement officers easier. This is not an immigration issue, but rather a safety issue.
Argument Against (NO vote): Opponents argue that, as Governor Baker said in his veto, the Registry of Motor Vehicles does not have the capability or expertise to verify foreign documents and a driver’s license will no longer be a valid way to verify identity. The bill also restricts the RMV’s ability to share citizenship information with those responsible for making sure only US citizens register to vote and vote in elections, therefore increasing the likelihood of noncitizens registering to vote. They say it is unfair to those who immigrate to the US legally.
However you plan to vote, it is important to be educated on the ballot questions to answer each in a more informed manner. Go to the polls on November 8 and cast your vote to make your voice heard for the future of Massachusetts.