Closing the income gap in Massachusetts

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NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Economic research shows the gap between the rich and the poor has gotten bigger over the past four decades. 22News asked people if anything can be done to close it?

Jean Esther of Williamsburg said, “I think that we live in a country that has enormous wealth. Most of it is in the hands of 1% of the people. I think anyone with a clear conscience should share their money.”

Massachusetts laws may also provide relief for low wage earners. A tax fairness commission formed by the state legislature recommends a graduated income tax.

When it comes to the state sales tax, it’s 6.25%, with talk of it going higher.

The group Yes Northampton advocates for a more progressive tax structure.

“The sales tax is a regressive tax some the people who make less money pay a higher percentage of their income in sales taxes then those who have more income and that’s just the way the sales tax works because its across the board,” said Pamela Schwartz, the co-coordinator for YES Northampton.

Some people are also concerned it’ll keep getting harder for those who make minimum wage to fill their gas tank and drive to a job.

During the summer of 2013 Massachusetts raised the gas tax, costing your typical driver an extra $30 a year. Beginning on January 1st of 2015, a provision goes into effect that ties the gas tax and its future increases to inflation.

So what can be done?

“Responsibility. If you have the money. I’m not saying give it away. I’m not saying tax the crap out of the people who have earned their money, but know that you are in a community. There are people who need it. There are people who have it,” said Steve Pierce of Westfield.

People also told 22News they’d like to see the state raise the minimum wage.

Right now the state minimum wage $8 an hour. There are bills that would raise it to at least $10.50, but so far, no action has been taken.

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