The COVID-19 pandemic was the single most devastating assault on our social, economic, and political ecosystem in decades. COVID-19 left our schools unfunded, our transportation infrastructure unsupported, and our people unheard. However, it must be stated that the pandemic did not create these difficulties; rather, it only exacerbated many of the long-standing shortcomings in Massachusetts’ efforts to ensure security and prosperity for its people. These problems are real and require a steadfast response. Fortunately, and because of the remarkable efforts of organizers throughout our Commonwealth, if our state votes "Yes" on Question 1, that outcome can be reached right away.
At its core, the premise of affirming Question 1, also known as the Fair Share Amendment, is incredibly simple: if passed, the amendment will allow our state to make drastic improvements to our public transportation and schools by generating new income from the ultra-wealthy. The four percent tax on all incomes above $1 million will generate two billion dollars in revenue for Bay Staters (Massachusetts residents) annually. This historic investment, which is obligated by the letter of the law to benefit those previously mentioned important facets of our society, would be a game-changing move that would directly benefit tens of thousands of Bay Staters.
The issue of Question 1 uniquely extends beyond the realm of our representatives and elected officials. Changes this drastic to our tax code require the approval of Massachusetts voters, so while the progressive credentials of our Governor (and, at times, our supposedly liberal state legislature) are certainly questionable, we are not subject to the now-standard obscurity of our political process. For this reason, the Fair Share Amendment should be a foremost priority for the progressives in Massachusetts, as we can swiftly accomplish serious change.
Our state and nation face an educational crisis. The post-pandemic world has wreaked havoc on our schools and put extraordinary stress on our educators. As my fellow Gavel writer Addie Metzger writes in an article elaborating on this issue, "Despite a critical need for remedial education, the average American K-12 student is five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. Many schools are entering the academic year with insufficient teaching staff to address these complex deficits exacerbated by the pandemic. In a recent poll of 535 principals and district leaders, nearly three-quarters of administrators reported insufficient staffing for the current academic year. " Across the board, our school districts continue to endure the ramifications of the sudden, dramatic shifts in education, such as online schooling. Massachusetts is no exception: as the Globe reported in late September, our Commonwealth’s annual MCAS results showed "more students failing to meet statewide requirements for reading and writing." As of right now, we are failing our students and teachers; our state is not providing the resources our schools need to thrive.
As an instrument by which we fully monetarily invest in our future generations, our educators, and our schools, the Fair Share Amendment could be our state’s first major effort to improve this pain. It cannot make up for the years lost because of COVID-19, but it can be the next step in ensuring the post-pandemic years are the most educationally rewarding and productive years yet.
Education is only one piece of the larger purpose of Question 1; transportation, just like our schools, is an integral part of Bay State society and is in deep need of immediate attention. Much like in our educational systems, Massachusetts today continues to experience the horrid consequences of the pandemic. The MBTA faces devastating staffing shortages and frequent delays. As Boston.com reported this past summer, frequent riders find these facts extremely apparent and troublesome. The urgency for MBTA investment was highlighted back in July when an Orange Line train caught fire and endangered dozens of passengers onboard. This tragedy was followed by a thirty-day Orange Line shutdown that disrupted thousands of daily riders’ lives.
If Massachusetts approves the Fair Share Amendment, we can not only restore the MBTA and our transportation infrastructure at large to their prior pre-COVID state but build an environment even better than what we had. Hundreds of new train cars, thousands of feet of new rail, and the elimination of slow zones are all entirely achievable within the possibilities of the Fair Share Amendment. Additionally, our state could finally get serious about connecting Western and Eastern Massachusetts through rail, which would stimulate our economy and create new, well-paying jobs.
Building a fast, reliable, and safe transportation infrastructure is not only important because thousands of Bay State residents rely on it for their security and prosperity, but also because it is an essential step in combating climate change and transitioning into a post-carbon world. According to the New York Times: "Public transit offers a relatively simple way for cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention a way to improve air quality, noise, and congestion." As you can imagine, one hundred commuters on a train or bus emit significantly less carbon dioxide into our atmosphere than one hundred commuters in cars.
But in order to convince a meaningful segment of the population to make this change, we must ensure that the alternative is genuinely desirable. Many people do not live close enough to public transportation for the switch to be viable, not to mention the commuters who simply find public transportation to be inconvenient, uncomfortable, or unreliable.
The Fair Share Amendment can help create the circumstances in which commuters can find public transportation as an attractive alternative to their carbon-contributing ways. By hiring more staff, expanding reach, and removing slowdowns using Question 1 funds, our Commonwealth can contribute importantly to fighting climate change.
For these and many other reasons, which I have left unstated due to time and space constraints, I implore all Boston College students who are registered to vote in Massachusetts to vote "YES" on Question 1, to support the Fair Share Amendment. An affirmative majority on this ballot question will help mend the deep wounds left in our society from the pandemic and rebuild our institutions to even greater heights than we found before.