Judge-Execs Warm to Local Sales Tax Option – Cincinnati Enquirer

CRESTVIEW HILLS — Support for a state constitutional amendment allowing cities and
counties to levy a local sales tax seemed substantial at a Saturday meeting of the Kenton
Mayors Group, though questions still remained.

“The reaction I had when the topic of a tax increase was brought up was no, followed by
another no,” said Kenton County Judge-executive Steve Arlinghaus. “But I think, as the
parameters became more clear, it became an issue that could be a game-changer.”

LIFT – Local Investments for Transformation, a statewide effort to get the amendment on the
ballot next November – was the focus of the meeting, which was opened to officials from
surrounding counties. The amendment would allow local governments to seek sales taxes of
up to 1 percent if approved by the General Assembly and voters statewide.

Under current Kentucky law, cities and counties are not allowed to impose sales taxes. The
amendment would allow a tax on the local ballot on three conditions:

• It is approved by local voters.
• The money is earmarked for specific projects.
• It expires after a designated time period.

The taxes would not apply to purchases of food, medicine or other items exempt from sales
taxes.

Like Arlinghaus, Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery supports the idea of the
local tax option, mainly as an investment tool as funding from Frankfort becomes scarcer.
With the state struggling to pay for obligations such as its underfunded pension program,
Pendery said “there’s not going to be a lot of money for very much of anything else for a
generation.

“I think, as a practical matter, it’s a good thing to have this in our tool box,” he said.

“It’s going
to have to be an incredibly attractive project for voters in Northern Kentucky to approve any
kind of increase.”

Eileen Pickett, a representative from the Louisville group advocating the amendment, made a
presentation during the meeting. A 1 percent increase in Northern Kentucky could raise as
much as $13 annually in Boone County, $8.3 million in Kenton and $5.2 million in Campbell,
she said.

“What’s most appealing about this option is that you can decide at the local level whether you
want to implement it or not and how you want to use the funds,” Pickett said.
Concerns lingered, though, on whether state money will be cut further for areas that opt to tax
themselves.

Pickett said her group, which is working with the Kentucky League of Cities, is still working on
details of the amendment, but she said similar concerns had been resolved in other states with
local sales taxes. Thirty-seven states, including Ohio, have local sales taxing authority.

We’re not inventing the wheel, we’re copying the wheel,” she said.

The amendment is expected to be introduced early in the next General Assembly, which
gavels to order in January.

As a constitutional amendment, it would require 60 percent majorities among state
representatives and senators for passage, then would appear on next November’s ballot in
a statewide referendum.

If approved by voters, local sales taxes could begin appearing on ballots in 2015. However,
because constitutional amendments can be voted on only in even-numbered years, if LIFT
doesn’t pass in this year’s General Assembly session, it would be delayed another two years.

“We have a definite window of opportunity,” Pickett said.

Source: Cincinnati.com
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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