On August 13 2023, a post about a Massachusetts “millionaire tax” funding school lunches appeared on Reddit’s r/politics:
— JerryRigEverything (@ZacksJerryRig) August 14, 2023
Millionaires in Massachusetts paid an extra 4% in tax starting this year. Now, that money is set to be allocated to provide free breakfast and lunch for public school students, improve transit, and make in-state tuition cheaper for migrants. @EVYSTADIUM reports: pic.twitter.com/Uq6COKSjHv
— VICE News (@VICENews) August 14, 2023
Well done, Massachusetts!
Next order of business: making free school meals a reality for every child in America.https://t.co/NsTIDT5x90
— Katherine Clark (@WhipKClark) August 10, 2023
The Reddit post and a few of the tweets linked to a vague August 13 2023 BusinessInsider.com article, which reported in part:
Public-school students in Massachusetts are set to get free lunch and breakfast thanks to a new 4% tax on people’s earnings above $1 million … State House News Service, an independent news wire, reported that $1 billion of the state’s record $56.2 billion fiscal budget for 2024 will be funded by its new 4% tax.
Gov. Maura Healey signed the budget on Wednesday [August 9 2023], making Massachusetts the eighth state to adopt a plan for free school lunch since the expiration of federal free school lunches that had emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Business Insider didn’t go into detail about Massachusetts’ millionaire tax, and other tweets linked to an August 10 2023 CBSNews.com article about the lunch-related policy change. It largely focused on the impact of the lunch program vs. how it was funded:
“Nobody calls them free lunch anymore or free meals, it’s just lunch, everybody just has lunch,” said Rebecca Wood, who told WBZ TV, she wasn’t always confident her 11-year-old, Charlie, would have access to school lunch.
“It’s awful, it truly is. She’d come home and say, Mom, you have to give money to the cafeteria again. I didn’t want her to know we were struggling and she had strangers telling her that we were,” said Wood.
And like so many others, Charlie didn’t qualify for reduced lunch, forcing Wood to make impossible decisions.
“I would get a paycheck in but with the high cost of housing and the medical expenses, it was gone,” said Wood.
A Google News search led to a separate Insider.com article, “8 US states offer free lunch for students. Here’s how they pay for it, from a 4% millionaire’s tax to a $0.03 property tax rate increase.” It seemed to indicate that additional funding supported the program:
Massachusetts’ program, which was part of a record $56.2 billion fiscal budget for 2024 signed by Gov. Maura Healey on Wednesday [August 9 2023], will be supported by a 4% millionaire’s tax aimed at people’s income above $1 million per year, as well as federal and state funding.
For some reason, Google News failed to prioritize a local news article published by Boston’s WCVB on August 1 2023. It was headlined, “Portion of millionaires’ tax revenue used to provide free school lunches in Massachusetts budget,” and reported:
Revenue from the millionaires’ tax, which took effect in Massachusetts this year , will help the state pay for making free meals for students permanent in public schools, according to the budget approved by the legislature … The record $56.2 billion fiscal 2024 budget that the House and Senate sent to the governor’s desk Monday includes plans for spending approximately $1 billion in new money raised through the voter-approved 4% surtax on household income above $1 million per year. A portion of that money will go toward the $172 million needed to provide free school meals, the State House News Service reported.
Legislators agreed to direct $523 million of revenue from the new surtax toward education initiatives and earmarked $477 million for transportation spending.
WCVB cited a subscription-only newswire, but the story provided figures about the Massachusetts millionaires’ tax as well as the cost of “free” lunches in Massachusetts schools. According to the station, roughly $1 billion was raised through the tax, and a year of school lunches cost $172 million in total.
Several social media posts suggested a Massachusetts “millionaire tax” enabled the state to fund all school lunches in 2023 and 2024. The most viral iterations were not locally reported, but WCVB explained that the tax does exist. It brought in a billion dollars in its first year, and school lunch funding was around $172 million. The claim was broadly accurate, but benefitted from more specific figures.