House approves constitutional amendment to allow local votes on sales tax increases – Lexington Herald-Leader

BY JOHN CHEVES
Source: Kentucky.com

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky House on Thursday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would let cities and counties temporarily raise their local sales taxes from 6 percent to 7 percent to pay for specific projects.

The House also voted 98 to 0 to approve a separate measure, House Bill 8, which would expand civil protective orders to dating partners. Both bills proceed to the Senate.

House Bill 1, the local option sales tax proposal, has bipartisan backing from legislative leaders, business groups, the mayors of Lexington and Louisville and others. A similar measure was approved by a House committee last year but never found enough support to win a House floor vote.

It was approved 62 to 35 Thursday. As a proposed constitutional amendment, it needed 60 votes to pass.

The bill’s supporters stressed in their speeches Thursday that they weren’t voting to raise taxes — a vote that can come back to haunt politicians in campaign ads — but they were voting to give communities the choice to raise taxes. If a city or county wants to raise money to build a convention center or expand broadband access, they can bump up their sales tax, the supporters said.

“We’re not imposing a tax. We’re imposing a choice,” said Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro.

“It’s democracy at its best, where local people make local decisions about what they want to do,” said House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, who co-sponsored the bill with House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Just as the bill’s supporters were bipartisan, so were the bill’s critics.

Two Louisville Democrats, Larry Clark and Jim Wayne, raised separate objections. Clark said the legislature was forfeiting potential tax revenue to local governments that it could use to pay for some of the state’s critical needs, such as K-12 schools and billions of dollars in public pension liabilities. Wayne said sales taxes are regressive because they hit the poor harder than the wealthy.

“The people who are pushing this legislation, and who are paying for the lobbyists who are pushing this legislation, are from the wealthy areas,” Wayne said.

Republican lawmakers twice tried to amend the bill, but they fell short of the votes needed in the Democratic-led chamber. One amendment would have exempted projects funded through the sales tax from prevailing wage laws and labor agreements that lead to higher wages for workers. The other amendment would have prohibited use of the funds to promote a capital project.

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

What People Are Saying

  • …embodies common-sense, good government principles that most conservatives and Republicans profess to support. It puts power at the local level closest to the people; is taxation with direct representation since the citizens have the right to vote on it; has high accountability by being tied to specific purposes; taxes consumption instead of savings or work; and sunsets instead of continuing indefinitely.

    John David Dyche, conservative columnist
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • …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
  • 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
  • …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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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