Bowling Green Daily News
October 22, 2014
By MONICA SPEES The Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org 783-3246
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said he believes the decision-making power for community projects and infrastructure should go to the people.
Projects could be completed by the vote of the people and without the usual state and federal funding obstacles if a grass-roots organization gets its way in the state legislature. Local Investments For Transformation Kentucky has been advocating a local-option sales tax for the state since summer 2013.
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“This gives the voice directly to the people,” Buchanon said.
A local-option sales tax allows citizens to approve or reject local projects. If the people vote to approve a project, then there is a temporary sales tax in the community until the project is paid for, according to LIFT. The sales tax can be up to 1 percent, depending on the people’s vote of how quickly they want to get the project completed.
“It could be bridges. It could be sewer lines. It could be a new road. It could be whatever the majority of the citizens voted to be important to the transformation of the community,” Buchanon said.
Kentucky is one of 13 states that doesn’t allow a local-option sales tax. Even if the state had it, it’s not mandatory that every community use it, according to LIFT information.
One of the benefits of a local-option sales tax is that it allows for quick payment of large projects. For example, Buchanon said, the $25 million Bowling Green Ballpark could have been paid off in 15 months. When citizens want a project to happen, a local-option sales tax would prevent them from having to wait until the funding becomes available.
“There are many things that the people would like to have that don’t fall within the revenue … but they can put something on the ballot,” Buchanon said.
Vicki Fitch, executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, presented the idea of a local-option sales tax to the CVB board during its meeting this month. The Kentucky Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus voted to support the campaign last month when Tyler Glick, grass-roots director of LIFT, spoke to the KACVB.
Glick said there is bipartisan support for the local-option sales tax, and communities across the state are already looking at projects they would like to start that could be completed with the tax. For example, Logan County would like an expanded vocational center, according to an email from Glick.
“It’s very much a direct democracy and another tool in the toolbox for economic development,” Glick said.
Fitch and others in Warren County, upon Buchanon’s invitation, attended a talk last year by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. Cornett praised the local-option sales tax and how it had benefited his community.
“I feel that it puts the decision much more in the hands of our citizens. … We feel that in many cities across the state, it could increase tourism,” Fitch said.
Fitch said a local-option sales tax likely wouldn’t have much of an effect on the CVB’s special projects fund.
Reservations about the local-option sales tax could come from the thinking that the people already pay taxes and are therefore already paying for projects. Buchanon said the local-option sales tax would not be the same. Anyone has the opportunity to campaign and vote for or against specific projects in their community rather than relying on elected officials – who they may or may not have voted for – to make decisions that impact the community.
“It’s about local control of their destiny,” Buchanon said.
Ironically, elected officials are the very ones who will have the say over whether a local-option sales tax comes to Kentucky. Fitch said it will be a “hot topic” during the upcoming legislative session.
“It will be in the hand of our legislators,” Fitch said.
Glick said a local-option sales tax is likely to become a reality for Kentucky.
“I definitely thing we’re going to be a top conversation,” Glick said.
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