Massachusetts is at a crossroads. 

We all agree that we’re losing our competitive edge thanks to the high cost of living – particularly housing – and our inability to get around. The quality of our schools also gives many pause when thinking about how we train our workforce. 

The essential promise of Question 1 is that another half-billion dollars every year will fix those last two items. At the same time, many in the business community say some of the efforts to fix this with taxes will make Massachusetts’ competitiveness problem even worse. 

And they’re right, on a certain level. Places Florida that suck away the largest numbers of residents and businesses have a mighty advantage by structuring themselves to appeal to our basest instincts. With their low tax rates and lax regulations, they offer the pleasure of short-term, no-consequences thinking that can be quite appealing if you have enough resources to insulate yourself from disaster when it eventually comes. 

Massachusetts could learn a thing or two from aspects of Florida’s strategy. A lot of good can be achieved if government would stop getting in the way with cumbersome, out-of-date zoning processes that keep housing costs high. But there are other things, like education and transit, where the private sector simply cannot meet the needs of our society at the price we all need them to pay.  

Quality public education that leaves a child career-ready by the end of 12th grade must be free. Carbon-free mobility must be cheap, efficient and ubiquitous. Housing must be accessible to all, even if you can only afford to pay a small amount. And all these things need substantial funding from the public purse.

However, the biggest problem supporters of Question 1 face in convincing a skeptical business community is that it’s highly unclear what this money will actually be spent on.  

The current administration has deliberately aimed low in planning for transportation fixes – just look at how proposals to extend the Blue Line by 2,000 feet to connect it to the Red Line were sandbagged by officials proposing outlandishly expensive construction methods – so there’s no creditable plan that can be pointed to.  

On education, proposals to scrap the MCAS standardized testing system run rampant when the same test shows many school leaders have been failing their students during the pandemic. There’s no doubt needs exist – the disparity between the resources students in Lawrence or Boston have access to compared to those in Weston is evidence enough. But beyond vague assertions, the vague language of Question 1 leaves it entirely possible the money won’t be targeted to areas of greatest need. 

In the remaining weeks before voters go to the polls, the backers of Question 1 and legislative leaders on Beacon Hill need to offer detailed and ironclad guarantees of how the money will be spent if they want more support. 

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Why Many Business Leaders Oppose Question 1

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min