Local tax option is sound policy; Stumbo should let communities decide – Lexington Herald Leader

Herald-Leader Editorial
March 13, 2014
Source: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/03/13/3136693/local-tax-option-is-sound-policy.html

Tax has become such a dirty word that leadership of the Kentucky House is hesitating to allow citizens to vote on whether local people can vote to raise their own sales

taxes for specific, time-limited local projects.

A coalition of mayors, county judges, the organizations that represent them, and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce have all endorsed House Bill 399, which would allow a vote this fall on a constitutional amendment to enable local sales tax increases.

It has the strong support of both Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who spoke for the measure Tuesday when it passed out of a House committee, 6 to 3.

This seems like the most basic kind of democracy: allowing people at the local level to decide whether to tax themselves for something to benefit their community. No surprise, a significant majority of registered votes seemed to understand it that way.

When asked recently about local-option taxes by the Bluegrass Poll, 60 percent favored the constitutional amendment while only 24 percent opposed it.

Despite this, the measure, may not come to a vote on the floor of the House, according

to House Speaker Greg Stumbo. Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, called the measure “bad policy.”


Under the proposal, communities could decide to raise the 6 percent sales tax by up to 1 percent for specific projects. Each increase would have to be approved separately and, when the project is paid for, the tax would expire.

Some retailers are opposed for the obvious reason that it will make their products more costly. But they will be able to raise opposition if an increase is proposed locally, and of course all local retailers would be similarly affected.

There might also be an undercurrent of rural vs. urban conflict, with concern that country people will be leaving even more money when they visit cities to shop, further diminishing their own communities.

However, smaller communities will have the same opportunity to raise their sales tax a penny to fund projects closer to home, like parks or business-district improvements.

There’s a good reason that 37 states allow local-option taxes: In a time when federal and state governments are increasingly cash-strapped and any real tax reform seems unattainable, local-option taxes provide a community the opportunity to determine its own destiny,

Polls consistently show that people have more trust in government the more local the level. They know the officeholders, they understand the issues, they see the benefits.

It’s good policy to give those voters the right to raise their taxes to improve their communities.

Stumbo should allow the House to vote on this measure.


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