By Lawrence Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – GE Appliances, which at first, appeared to oppose the Local Option Sales Tax, Thursday said it supports the proposal.
On Thursday afternoon, GE’s Kim Freeman released the following statement to further clarify its position on Local Option:
“The Mayor has made his case for the need for additional revenue to fund important infrastructure projects. GE Appliances supports HB 1 as it provides the mayor an opportunity to propose infrastructure projects and citizens to vote on whether they agree or not.”
The statement comes the day after an organization representing some of Louisville’s largest employers — including Ford and GE – came out in opposition to the proposed Local Option Sales Tax.
An association called Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers sent a letter to state lawmakers opposing the bill which would allow local voters to approve a temporary one-percent sales tax increase to fund local projects.
KIUC says Local Option could cost companies an additional $24 million a year on their energy bills. Residential power bills are exempt from sales taxes, but industrial power bills are not.
Though lawmakers WDRB spoke with on Wednesday had not yet received the letter, it was already having an impact on the debate.
“It could very well be a game-changer now that you have these major employers in our community that affect so many in our community, are now objecting to the cost to them,” said Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville) a vocal opponent of Local Option.
The bill has already passed the House, but Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) said the new opposition could derail it in the Senate.
“It impacts the debate greatly, and probably makes people question whether we need to pass it this year or not,” he said.
Gov. Steve Beshear said he’s confident the bill can be tweaked.
“The implementation legislation can be worked to where we don’t put our industrial companies at a disadvantage at all,” said Beshear.
But Thayer said time is running out in this session, and there are bigger priorities, especially since Local Option requires a constitutional amendment that can’t go on the ballot until 2016.
“With this not being able to go on the ballot until next year, it kind of gets pushed down a notch in terms of its urgency,” said Thayer.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, GE spokesman Freeman said the letter does not represent the company’s position on Local Option.
“While KIUC members may have legitimate concerns about the impact on their electricity rates, of an increase in the sales tax, that concern should have been expressed in a request for an accommodation that recognizes the importance of Kentucky’s relatively low electricity costs in attracting and retaining industry, not by a broad-side attack on the bill,” said GE’s Kim Freeman in an email statement.
The next day, GE issued the new statement further clarifying its position.
You can read the entire KIUC letter here.