Sales tax bill gets late push from Fischer – The Courier-Journal

By Gregory A. Hall
Source: The Courier-Journal

With hours left for the local option sales tax to advance in the state Senate, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer made a push Tuesday to rally support for the bill.

House Bill 1, which would amend the state constitution to allow the tax for local projects, needs to get three readings in the Senate on three different days, including votes by a committee and the full Senate. Those must occur on separate days. After Tuesday, the session has three days left — meaning HB 1 would be dead if it doesn’t get one of those readings by Wednesday.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing the Senate to call a vote here,” Fischer said in a conference call Tuesday with supporters and media, urging calls to the Republican majority caucus.

HB 1, sponsored by Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, is a constitutional amendment that would allow local communities to propose an additional sales tax of up to 1 percent — on top of the state’s current 6 percent — for a limited time to pay for projects. The tax could not be imposed unless the local community voted for it in a referendum.

A constitutional change requires three-fifths of the members of both the House and the Senate to approve the measure before the amendment would go to voters for ratification in a statewide referendum.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said on Monday that the bill “has a very limited likelihood of being able to reach a conclusion this session.”

Fischer, a Democrat, said the bill is held up for several reasons, including concerns among Republicans that the amendment is a tax. But Fischer said it’s about local control — is a common rallying cry for Republicans.

The GOP prides “itself on local control and home rule, so this bill should be right in their sweet spot,” Fischer said, adding that not passing it benefits 37 states that have local option taxes, giving them an edge in competing for economic development projects.

Fischer, who has frequented the Capitol to push for the amendment, said he believes supporters of HB 1 have the votes to pass the amendment in committee and the 23 votes needed to pass it on the Senate floor — if it is allowed to get there.

The amendment, which died in last year’s session, passed the House for the first time in February by a 62-35 count.

Supporters like Fischer and Gov. Steve Beshear say the amendment is needed to help pay for local projects that state and federal governments no longer fund.

The Kentucky Retail Federation opposes the amendment, arguing that a local-option tax would put Kentucky businesses at a disadvantage with out-of-state, mail-order firms that wouldn’t be collecting the extra sales tax.

Reporter Gregory A. Hall can be reached at (502) 582-4087. Follow him on Twitter at @gregoryahall.

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