Opinion – Let local voters decide on local sales tax – Central Kentucky News

Source: Central Kentucky News

One of many bills that may die on the vine during the current legislative session is a proposed constitutional amendment paving the way for Kentucky communities to vote on enacting a local option sales tax.

We think it should pass and voters should decide whether they want it to be state law.

Proponents of the measure refer to it as LIFT. (Local Investments for Transformation), while those against it didn’t have to work very hard at all for their own on the nose acronym: LOST (local option sales tax). The bill would place the amendment on the ballot across Kentucky in 2016, and, if it passes, residents in every county could vote on a temporary tax of up to 1 percent to fund specific projects.

House Bill 1 passed and appeared to have some support in the Senate, including from President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester. Questions have arisen, though, about companion legislation outlining the particulars of how a tax would be approved and implemented. The chairman of the committee where the bill now resides has been dragging his feet on even bringing it up for discussion.

The bill should get a hearing in the State and Local Government Committee, see the light of day on the Senate floor and, we believe, be passed so the voters can weigh in.

Every year local governments are asked to shoulder more of the burden for vital improvements with a limited, often shrinking, pool of tax dollars. Even with an improving economy, we don’t expect this to change dramatically in years to come, and state and federal dollars also will likely continue to dwindle. Look no further than the current situation with the state’s road fund for evidence.

This is a chance to allow cities and counties to choose what projects are necessary and worthy, then pursue them without assuming massive debts or disrupting the rest of their budget. While it’s a fun exercise to make a pie-in-the-sky wish list for how this might be implemented, we hope and fully expect area counties won’t frivolously go to the ballot box.

If they do, residents can tell them what they think loud and clear.

We do share concerns with many of our local legislators about the tax unfairly impacting people who cannot vote for or against it when they travel to places like Lexington and Louisville that attract droves of out-of-town shoppers — mayors Jim Gray and Greg Fischer were the major boosters for the bill. However, the amendment would offer the same opportunity for communities across the state to capitalize on transient customer cash.

Overall, we believe giving voters the chance to judge the merits of the concept, and future projects, is a good thing. Let the people decide whether the idea achieves LIFT off or the cause is LOST.

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