By Gregory A. Hall
Source: The Courier-Journal
FRANKFORT, Ky. – 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.