Numerous prominent government leaders and organizations have gone on record in favor of giving cities and counties in Kentucky the option to impose a local sales tax.
Gov. Steve Beshear backs the idea, which is being championed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and several other Kentucky mayors and county judges are on board.
Greater Louisville Inc. and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce support the movement. So does the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties.
Thirty-seven states allow such a tax, and 88 of the 108 American cities with populations of 200,000 or more have enacted a local option sales tax.
So who could be against the idea of allowing citizens the right to tax themselves to fund local projects they want?
The answer is gutless legislators who are more concerned with getting re-elected than doing what’s right for Kentucky.
Despite the growing support for the local-option sales tax, the prospect of getting a proposed constitutional amendment passed in the 2014 General Assembly appears bleak.
Such an amendment would allow cities and counties to impose a sales tax of as much as 1 percent to fund specific projects — only if local voters gave their approval.
Several key legislators have said the amendment will not pass because lawmakers fear their opponents in next year’s election would accuse them of increasing taxes.
Unfortunately, getting smeared by mistruths is par for the course in today’s political elections.
But that doesn’t make it acceptable to oppose good legislation just because your vote could be used against you.
Legislators know that if they pass the proposed amendment, it would have to be ratified by Kentucky voters.
And even if voters approved the amendment, legislators know that no one’s taxes would be increased unless a majority of voters approved specific local projects put on the ballot.
Everyone knows about the strain on the state’s budget caused by the recession and the increasing funds needed for pensions, Medicare and corrections.
The budget shortfalls are not unique to Kentucky.
Most other states also have had to deal with growing need and diminishing revenue.
As federal and state funds have decreased, most of Louisville’s competitor cities have been able to use proceeds from local-option sales taxes to fund needed capital projects.
The ability to do so has allowed several of these cities to pass us by.
It is estimated that a 1 percent local sales tax would generate $138 million per year
in new revenue for Louisville. Fischer’s Vision Louisville project is identifying thousands of very cool ideas that could help propel Louisville forward.
Many of those ideas would take new money to become a reality.
Louisville citizens and those in other Kentucky cities and counties deserve the right to decide whether they want to tax themselves to better their communities.
It’s unconscionable that some legislators would deny them that right strictly out of fear that it could hurt their re-election chances.
Before John Kennedy became president, he wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book called “Profiles In Courage.” The book contained short profiles of eight U.S. senators who risked their political careers to do what they thought was right for the country.
Kentucky legislators need to pick up a copy of that book and read it.
It’s time that doing what’s right triumphs what is politically expedient.