Gonzalez Plan Would Tax State's Wealthiest Colleges To Invest In Transportation And Education

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Jay Gonzalez celebrates victory over Bob Massie in the Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
Jay Gonzalez celebrates victory over Bob Massie in the Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez on Wednesday unveils a plan to tax the wealthiest colleges in Massachusetts to pay for transportation and education initiatives.

His proposal would levy a 1.6 percent tax on private colleges with endowments in excess of $1 billion.

The tax would currently apply to nine schools in Massachusetts: Harvard University, MIT, Williams College, Boston College, Amherst College, Wellesley College, Boston University, Smith College and Tufts University.

Harvard and MIT would pay $563 million and $210 million, respectively, under the plan, according to the Gonzalez campaign.

In total, the campaign estimates the tax would generate $1 billion a year.

Gonzalez says his "modest" tax is a fair ask.

"My proposal would only tax those colleges and universities that have accumulated enormous wealth, have endowments of over a billion dollars, in part because they have been exempt from taxation," he told WBUR.

An official at the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), a trade group that represents private universities, called Gonzalez's proposal "a terrible idea."

"Our colleges and universities are clear drivers of the Massachusetts economy. Undercutting their ability to attract talent, to provide financial aid for students across the state, and to conduct breakthrough research is simply irresponsible," AICUM President Richard Doherty said in a statement. "This was a bad idea when Republicans in Washington proposed it, and it is an even worse idea now."

In an email, the campaign of incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker pointed out that many Massachusetts Democrats had opposed a plan to tax college endowments that was included in President Trump's tax overhaul.

"[W]hen President Trump proposed this idea, I thought it was a bad idea then, and I still think it's a bad idea," Baker said.

Gonzalez had backed what supporters called the "Fair Share Amendment," which would have taxed individual income over $1 million to pay for education and transportation initiatives.

The measure was knocked off the 2018 ballot by the state's highest court.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and State House News Service. Click the audio player atop this post to listen to the full WBUR conversation with Gonzalez.

This article was originally published on September 19, 2018.

This segment aired on September 19, 2018.


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