COMMENT: LIFT would provide options to spark development – Courier Press

By Hal B. Goode
Source: Evansville Courier & Press

Recently, the Kentucky House of Representatives took a big step forward in allowing local communities more control over their own growth and economic development. With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House passed LIFT, or Local Investments for Transformation. This a bill allowing Kentuckians to decide for themselves if they want to allow local voters to invest in economic development and infrastructure projects in their communities.

LIFT has gathered a tremendous amount of support from across the Commonwealth with endorsements from over 45 business and civic organization — including the Kentucky Association for Economic Development — representing every corner and every sized community in Kentucky. These organizations join the overwhelming majority of Kentuckians who, in a poll conducted by the commonwealth’s largest news outlets, support LIFT. On top of that, a bipartisan group of legislative leaders have set aside political differences to advance this idea, and finally return more control to our local communities.

Despite such widespread support for LIFT, there is still some confusion about how the plan works and the legislation currently being considered in Frankfort.

First, let’s be clear about what LIFT is trying to accomplish. Currently 37 other states allow local voters to approve — at the ballot box — a temporary local option sales tax to pay for specific fixed infrastructure projects their communities want and need. LIFT hopes to add Kentucky to that list and give Kentuckians the same choice.

This local optional sales tax would be temporary — with an automatic sunset clearly stated on the ballot — and capped at 1 percent. If voters in a community wanted to pass a smaller levy amount of a half or even a tenth of a percent, they would be free to do so. This would also not apply to any of the essential goods currently exempted from state sales taxes like groceries, medicine, or utility bills.

I think it’s important to also make sure that everyone understands that the LIFT legislation that will now be considered before the Kentucky State Senate does not allow cities or counties to vote on local option sales taxes. As a proposed constitutional amendment House Bill 1 would only place the plan on a statewide ballot to be approved, or not approved, by Kentucky voters. If Kentuckians decided it was a good idea, then and only then, would LIFT be allowed. When legislative leaders say that this is “democracy at its purest form,” this is what they mean.

If individuals or organizations oppose LIFT, then let them oppose it; if they support LIFT, let them support it. But at the end of the day House Bill 1 lets the people of Kentucky decide. Those attempting to derail House Bill 1 in Frankfort need to be reminded they are not stopping LIFT from becoming law — they are stopping Kentuckians having their voice heard on the matter.

The Kentucky Association for Economic Development (KAED) supports LIFT. Our organization believes it is an idea whose time has come, and could be a crucial economic development tool which will help our local communities build a better future, and the new jobs and businesses we need. But — perhaps more importantly — we support the idea that Kentuckians ought to have a chance to decide for themselves. Kentucky Senators should let the voters have a say.

Hal B. Goode is president and CEO of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development.

What People Are Saying

  • “Putting the local-tax amendment on the November 2014 statewide ballot is a no-brainer. If local people want to levy local taxes on themselves, they should be able to.”

    Al Cross, Courier-Journal columnist
  • Jeff-Bringardner-headshot-only“This is a way to keep dollars in the area, to come up with a diverse slate of projects that sync up with the long-term plans of the community and get voted on by the people”

    Jeff Bringardner, President, Humana Kentucky
  • BillLamb“If Louisville could adopt a 1% Local Option Tax, it would impose a minimal burden, but would raise over 90 million dollars a year.”

    Bill Lamb, President and General Manager for WDRB and WNYO
  • Bill Samuels Bellarmine Portrait“Local option makes all the sense in the world. Offering citizens the opportunity to vote on investing in their community is how our country ought to operate.”

    Bill Samuels, Chairman, Emeritus Makers Mark
  • …a new way for communities to see the projects they want and need go from the drawing board to reality — and to do it for themselves.

    Jim Host, founder of Host Communications and former State Commerce Secretary
  • LIFT is a tried-and-true tool that allows for more voter involvement in the process.  Voters, not politicians, would help determine big picture, visionary projects that could improve quality of life.

    Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • …an idea whose time has come, and could be a crucial economic development tool which will help our local communities build a better future, and the new jobs and businesses we need.

    Hal Goode, President and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Economic Development
  • In our opinion, Kentucky voters should be allowed to vote on the local option sales tax because it could fund public facilities without increasing property taxes.

    Morehead News
  • It will allow communities to plan and pay for improvements to enhance civic and economic life without going hat in hand each budget session to Frankfort.

    Lexington Herald-Leader
  • The beauty of it is that local voters have the say-so as to its enactment, and they have a sense that they are getting what they pay for.

    Princeton Times-Leader