(Feb. 24, 2015) — The global competition for talent is fierce. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is committed to improving the commonwealth to attract top talent. One way to do that is to give local communities tools to invest for their future opportunities and growth.
Over the past several years, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and over 45 other civic, government, economic development, and other business organizations have been championing an initiative called Local Investments for Transformation (LIFT) or Local Option. This would bring Kentucky in line with some 37 other states that allow for greater local control when it comes to investments.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover are leading a bipartisan effort to enact this important legislation. There is growing bipartisan support for LIFT in Frankfort, which was evident when the House voted to pass the bill.
Very simply, LIFT would allow citizens to invest in specific hometown capital projects. It would give voters a say on whether they want to pay for new community infrastructure and economic development. It would be the right to vote—up or down—on those projects and their costs via referendum. If the voters say “yea”, the project moves forward. A temporary local sales tax of no more than one percent would be instituted, and then would expire once the project and its costs are paid for. If local voters say “nay”, the project and the levy does not happen.
Currently, assistance at the federal and state level to local communities is dwindling. Local communities are increasingly on their own, which makes this tool even more relevant.
Whether it’s an expanded convention center in Northern Kentucky, a fiber optic expansion in Franklin, or rebuilding a structurally deficient dam in Ohio and Muhlenberg counties, there are no shortage of potential projects around the commonwealth.
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.
Voters in Oklahoma City used the local option to fund a much-needed overhaul of their downtown. Where that community was once the butt of jokes, it now is an attractive destination for new companies. Voters in the smaller community New Ellenton, S.C., population 2,059, decided on crucial sewage improvements and built a community center. Both communities saw the need, and ultimately approved and funded the projects. That’s something voters in Kentucky communities cannot do at the moment.
The chamber is firmly behind this effort and we are urging the Kentucky Senate to follow the lead of the state House and give citizens of the commonwealth the chance to decide for themselves on the local option.
I encourage you to phone your state Senator in Frankfort at 1 (800) 372-7181 and let them know that you support LIFT and the local option because it will help Kentucky improve quality of life and become a stronger magnet for top talent.
Dave Adkisson is President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce