A bill in the Kentucky State Legislature that would allow communities to have a say in how it would wish to finance projects in their locales is receiving attention locally.
Thursday night, the Murray City Council unanimously approved a resolution brought forth by Mayor Jack Rose to support House Bill 1 that has been tagged the “LIFT” bill for its acronym “Local Investments For Transformation.” This comes just two days after the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce board of directors unanimously placed its support toward the measure that would allow for a community’s voters to approve up to a 1 percent local option sales tax.
“That, to me, is the beauty of this … the people decide what they want to do,” said Chamber President & CEO Aaron Dail. “And that is what we’re wanting to have happen. Let’s just get it on the ballot and let the people decide if they want to try this at all.
“I also think that, if this were to be approved, the people of Murray and Calloway County are smart enough to make the right decision on what they want and how they want to go about getting it.”
The bill does call for a rather long path, though. If the House of Representatives and Senate approve the measure in Frankfort, then Gov. Steve Beshear signs it, the measure goes to the public, for the first time. This would come in the form of a vote to amend the commonwealth Constitution, which would come in 2016.
If the measure wins on election night, it goes back to Frankfort for review before communities could begin utilizing it themselves. These would be for projects specifically pertaining to communities, not statewide, with only local citizens participating in that process.
“It makes sense to me and gives ultimate support to the concept of home rule,” Rose said. “What I also like is we would have to be specific, as far as what we were voting on. You have to spell out what the project is, what the tax is on it and when that tax is going to end, and I believe the local people should have the final say about something that impacts their lives.”
In Tuesday’s meeting of the Calloway County Fiscal Court, Calloway County Judge-Executive Larry Elkins addressed the matter briefly, indicating that he believes the matter is “worth considering,” urging county citizens to contact 5th District state Rep. Kenny Imes and 1st District state Sen. Stan Humphries to give their views on how they think those lawmakers should vote.
“I will say that it could be an answer for a lot of local problems throughout the state,” Elkins said, adding that he found it telling that not only the chamber board is supporting it locally, but both Democrats and Republicans statewide are as well. “That’s very unusual to see that happen in Kentucky. It also says something for the chamber to be backing it. Most of those people are in retail so for them to support it, says to me that they don’t feel that up to a 1 percent tax would hurt them.”
Elkins left open the possibility of the magistrates drafting their own supportive resolution, either during a special called meeting or their regular monthly meeting in February.
Imes (R-Murray) said Thursday that he has talked with both Elkins and Rose, as well as Dail, about LIFT and said, from his conservative standpoint, the bill provides for positives, both with the 1 percent ceiling on any proposal, as well as the right for the citizens to decide.
“I do have reservations, though, and one of those is with how much of that money the state gets to keep before the local communities have it returned to them,” Imes said.
“Also, the citizens do have to understand that they would be approving a ‘tax,’ so they would need to have that up front,” said Humphries (R-Cadiz), who like Imes did not give an opinion as to which way he will vote when presented the chance this session. “Still, though, you’re looking at the added restrictions as far as how long the tax would last and that it is for specifics so there are good things in this.”
Figures from the University of Louisville show Calloway County had an estimated retail tax base of nearly $527 million and estimated that, with a 1 percent tax on that amount, it would have had nearly $5.3 million available for use on projects.