‘They just don’t care’: Why more business leaders aren’t against ‘millionaires’ tax’

United – especially the Massachusetts Association of Teachers and National Education Association – bankrolled many sides “Yes”, collected about $ 28 million, twice the $ 14 million their rivals brought, according to state political campaign filings.

The grant funded a sophisticated grassroots campaign that allowed Question 1 advocates to flood TV and social media with ads, and knock on the doors of more than 1 million voters. Opponents are just starting to broadcast first TV ad in September, a month after the proponents, and they canvassed only 144,000 houses.

“We need to raise about $20 to $25 million,” said John Fish, a Suffolk construction CEO who spent $1 million on the “No” side and personally made 30 calls in the past six months to get others to donate as well.

“There is no rally sound strong enough to raise those resources,” he said, noting that only 1 in 5 of his pitches resulted in a contribution.

Fish found that business leaders, especially those running public companies, did not want to be associated with the fight against the millionaire tax. This is despite concerns about tax increases can damage the country’s economic competitiveness.

Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish speaks at a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 20, 2022. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“Social pressure far exceeds the ability to support this ballot on a ‘No’ basis,” he added.

But the problem of the opposition goes beyond money.

The union mobilized thousands of people to march for Question 1, which had been eight years in the making. They are part of a broad coalition of community and faith-based organizations that have previously pushed for paid family leave and minimum wage increases into law.

For supporters, it’s a do-or-die moment to tax the rich which will generate anywhere from $1.2 billion to $2 billion a year, with proceeds flowing to education and transportation. Five times before, voters have rejected the ballot measure to change the country’s flat tax rate.

The supporters have come a long way and they will not lose now. they created simple message: better schools and fix the MBTA, and 99 percent of us won’t pay an extra nickel.

The size found the strongest support in progressive cities (Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville) and gateway communities (Malden, Lawrence, and Worcester), where these groups have strong networks.

Several wealthy people carry the financial burden for the “No” team, including the head of New Balance Jim Davis (who gave $ 2 million), the owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft ($ 1 million through his company), and the power couple Sandra and Paul Edgerley ($ 1 million each).

But many others just shrugged. The Massachusetts company has gone global, and its CEO is no match for local politics. Plus, they can find ways around higher taxes, or move to avoid them, especially after the pandemic proves that people can work from anywhere. Ahead of the election, some executives have launched Plan B and moved out of the country.

In the words of an old business leader: “They don’t care.”

Meanwhile, proponents of Question 1 build a list of high-profile winners, including: Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren; Representatives Jim McGovern, Seth Moulton, Ayanna Pressley, and Lori Trahan; and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Governor-elect Maura Healey, and Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll.

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during a Democratic election night party in Boston. Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

not America’s most popular governor, Charlie Baker, was mostly missing in action. Baker opposes Question 1 but keep a low profile about it, choosing instead to work behind the scenes and help raise money. The Republican is not seeking a third term and waited until a week before the election to send an email blast via his political committee to urge supporters to vote “No” on Question 1.

With the size of the ballot through a narrow margin from 52 percent to 48 percentdifference of 95,000 votes, many in the business community could not help but wonder if the result would be different if Baker took a strong public stance.

“If you had Charlie Baker really hamstrung this issue, I don’t think it would pass,” said Scott Ferson, a Democratic strategist.

Baker – in response to questions from Globe reporters – defended his approach to the issue, which is mainly to emphasize how the country has billions of dollars in surplus money and its rain fund.

“I made it clear that I thought Massachusetts was in a tremendous financial position,” Baker said on Thursday. “I don’t think we need that, Question 1, and I’m worried about the impact the decision will have on the mobile economy we’re living in today. . . voters are calling.”

Question 1 opponent also failed to deliver a compelling campaign theme, instead of throwing a litany of complaints against the wall and hoping something will resonate with voters.

PR executive George Regan — who is close to Davis, Fish, and Kraft, as well as Baker — said the “No” message should focus more on the risk that the brightest workers and most innovative companies will leave. That message — that the foundation of Massachusetts’ knowledge economy is in jeopardy — was diluted when the campaign also warned about the impact of taxes on small business owners, homeowners, and retirees, as well as concerns that the Legislature was simply throwing money around, with spending on education and transportation. will not actually grow.

“It’s winnable,” said Regan.

Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this article.

Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at [email protected] Larry Edelman can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @GlobeNewsEd.

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