Voters' Guide to 2022 Massachusetts Ballot Questions
To help voters understand policy issues in Massachusetts, we provide non-partisan research on all state ballot questions. Our findings are summarized here; full reports can be accessed via the links and callout boxes.
Question 1: A Millionaires Tax
Known informally as the “Millionaires Tax” or the “Fair Share Amendment,” Question 1 would alter the state constitution to introduce a 4 percent surtax on annual income over $1 million — and earmark the revenue for education, roads, bridges, and public transit?
In a pair of reports, we found that:
- The Massachusetts millionaires tax would raise about $1.3 billion in 2023 — and do so in a highly progressive way likely to advance racial and economic equity.
- The number of high-income residents relocating to other states is likely to be small, but tax avoidance could be widespread. Together, these behavioral responses would reduce millionaires tax revenue by roughly 35 percent. (Absent these responses, the tax would be expected to raise $2.1 billion in 2023.)
- Though this tax would only apply to around 0.6 percent of Massachusetts households in any given year, it could raise a meaningful amount of money, as those few households account for more than one-fifth of all taxable income in the state.
- The explicit commitment to spend all millionaires tax revenue on education, transit, and transportation will be difficult to fully maintain. For every dollar raised by the surtax, spending on these earmarks is likely to increase by 30 cents to 70 cents, with the remainder effectively diverted to other areas of the budget.
- With the right spending priorities, millionaires tax revenue could directly address racial inequity; for instance, increased education spending is known to improve student outcomes, particularly for lower-income students. However, the real-world impact will depend on the uncertain decisions of future lawmakers.
- Changing the Massachusetts Constitution — as this ballot question does — would introduce some unlikely but potentially worrisome risks. If there are unintended consequences, they could only be fully addressed through a multiyear process. However, legislators would be able to make temporary fixes via regular law.
Read the full report: Evaluating the Massachusetts Millionaires Tax
Read the full report: Risks and Benefits of Massachusetts Millionaires Tax
Question 2: New Rules for Dental Insurance
The idea behind dental insurance is relatively straightforward. You pay the insurance company a certain amount every month; they agree to cover some of the costs of your dental care.
But what happens if they're collecting a lot more from those monthly premium payments than they’re paying out for treatment.
Is that unfair? Or just part of the business model? And should the state get involved, perhaps by requiring dental insurers to spend a certain percentage of their monthly premiums on patient care — just as we already do for medical insurance?
Voters will get to answer these questions in November as part of Ballot Question 2, which would set new rules for dental insurers, including a requirement that 83 cents of every dollar collected in premiums is spent on patients' dental work.
This 83 cent standard is referred to as the "loss ratio." And as part of our mission to help voters understand state ballot questions, we have reviewed relevant research and spoken with a variety of experts about the potential impact a minimum loss ratio could have on dental insurance and care in Massachusetts. We found that:
- This ballot question is built on relatively thin information. It's not clear whether dental insurers are currently close to — or far from — the proposed 83 percent requirement. Indeed, there’s no clear basis for the 83 percent figure, and imposing it would make us the only state with a fixed loss ratio for dental insurance.
- The limited information we do have suggests dental insurers could probably adapt to the 83 percent standard, just as medical insurers did with the similar standards set by the Affordable Care Act. Those most likely to struggle are the smaller, less-efficient dental insurers.
- Insurers could meet the 83 percent loss ratio in a number of ways, including by covering a wider range of procedures or by allowing dentists to charge higher prices for dental services. Some price increases might then pass through to patients.
- Question 2 also includes a number of reporting requirements that would shed useful light on the dental insurance market and allow for better-grounded regulations moving forward.
Read the full report: Question 2: New Rules for Dental Insurance
Question 3: Alcohol Sales at Chain Stores
Anyone looking to sell alcohol in Massachusetts needs a license, and these licenses are tightly controlled — both by the state and by individual cities and towns.
Ballot Question 3 asks voters whether to change today’s licensing rules, giving chain stores the opportunity to sell beer and wine in more locations while limiting their ability to amass liquor licenses. Question 3 would also selectively raise the fines for violations such as selling alcohol to minors.
It’s the latest front in an ongoing battle to shape Massachusetts’ policies around alcohol sales. And as part of our mission to help voters assess the costs, benefits, and risks of all state ballot questions, we have analyzed this initiative and found that:
- Question 3 would allow some chain stores to start selling beer and wine in more locations. But the overall impact on alcohol sales and consumption in Massachusetts would be quite limited — especially as there would be no change in licensing rules for bars and restaurants.
- Individual cities and towns would maintain the authority to limit licenses in their jurisdictions, which could complicate efforts by chain stores to expand beer and wine sales under this initiative.
- The new system for imposing fines would have a disproportionate effect on retailers that sell alcohol alongside other goods (like a supermarket or convenience store). This creates a powerful disincentive against illegal sales but may also raise fairness concerns.
- Whatever voters decide on Question 3, the broader fight over alcohol sales in Massachusetts is likely to continue, with more expansive ballot questions in the years ahead.
Read the full report: Question 3: Alcohol Sales at Chain Stores
Question 4: Driver's Licenses for Unauthorized Immigrants
Earlier this year, Massachusetts legislators passed a law allowing unauthorized immigrants to apply for state-issued driver’s licenses.
Now, with Ballot Question 4, voters are being asked to either affirm or annul the law before it can take effect.
At its core, Question 4 is about the rights we afford to unauthorized immigrants living in our state. What kinds of support and recognition should they receive? And what aspects of American life should be preserved for citizens and legal residents?
Currently in Massachusetts, unauthorized immigrants can attend public schools, obtain free school meals, receive some housing assistance, and qualify for public health services like vaccinations. But they are not allowed to vote, claim unemployment benefits, or participate in many federal programs like Medicaid or food stamps.
Question 4 lets voters decide where driver’s licenses fit in this broader picture, weighing issues like the safety of our transportation system and the impact on immigrants’ daily lives.
As part of our commitment to help voters understand state ballot questions, we have examined the text of this new law, reviewed relevant research, and spoken with experts and advocates on both sides of the issue.
We found that:
- Offering licenses to unauthorized immigrants will encourage them to purchase cars, get insurance, and receive the training needed to pass a road test. What is more, it will reduce pressure to avoid police and publicly safety officers out of fear that simple traffic enforcement could lead to deportation.
- State-issued driver’s licenses would not alter people’s immigration status or expand access to other benefits. However, they would offer some new legitimacy to unauthorized immigrants. Whether this is appropriate is a major part of what voters are being asked to decide.
- While questions have been raised about the technical challenges of offering driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants, Massachusetts should be able to accomplish this in a way that sufficiently verifies a person’s identity and prevents any accidental voter registration, just as 16 other states already do.
- Despite some safeguards, it’s still possible that a program of licenses for unauthorized immigrants could be used to identify and track people in future.
Read the full report: Question 4: Driver's Licenses for Unauthorized Immigrants