Local citizens deserve the right to tax themselves for projects – Lexington Herald-Leader

By Jim Host
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

Election season is special in Kentucky. Next to basketball season, there doesn’t seem to be a time that gets Kentuckians more excited.

But when it’s over it’s time for Kentucky to get down to the business of the initiatives that move the commonwealth forward.

In January 2015, when our state’s leaders meet in Frankfort to conduct the people’s business, they will face no shortage of issues. While there are a number of challenges facing our commonwealth, I hope that — as leaders of both parties have pledged — one of their very top priorities will be passing legislation to place a constitutional question on the 2016 ballot asking Kentucky citizens if they want to allow local communities to decide for themselves whether to fund local projects through a small one-time local sales tax that will end when the project is completed.

The local option sales tax, as it’s commonly known, is a tool that can have enormous transformative effects on the lives of Kentucky families, and can change the way our cities and counties direct their own growth.

In the past Kentuckians have sent their hard-earned tax dollars to Frankfort and statehouse leaders have decided which projects get funding. Local communities crossed their fingers in hope the project they were counting on got the green light.

The local option sales tax is 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.

A local option sales tax would allow local communities to let their citizens decide whether to fund infrastructure and construction projects through a local sales tax, which would be capped at 1 percent and have a built-in sunset. If the people are willing to fund a local project through levying a small tax on themselves, they vote yes. If they don’t want the tax or the project, they vote no. What could be simpler or more democratic?

For the past year, volunteers and representatives from Local Investments for Transformation Kentucky, or LIFT, a coalition of prominent business, civic, and government leaders helping support this plan, have travelled across the state and heard about the projects communities would hope to fund through a local option sales tax.

These projects are as diverse as the communities that need them: new water lines in Marshall County, an animal shelter in Paducah, an outdoor amphitheater in Somerset, a multi-use convention center and arena to harness the bourbon boom near Lebanon, replacement of a structurally deficient dam in Ohio and Muhlenberg counties. The list goes on and on.

Some projects are meant to attract or retain new businesses and jobs. Some are long overdue infrastructure projects that are not on Frankfort’s priority list.

There is, however, one thing these projects have in common: they are the projects that citizens and local communities need but don’t currently have the means to fund.

Thirty-seven states give their local communities the ability to fund their own infrastructure projects through a local option sales tax — it’s time Kentuckians are given a chance to decide for ourselves if we want to join their ranks.

I urge you to let your elected officials know it’s time Kentuckians had a say.


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