By Rosalind Essig
Source: The Jessamine Journal
One bill introduced during the first week of the legislative session is getting local officials’ attention and stirring interest at the level of local government.
HB1 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Kentucky that would give the General Assembly authority to give local governments power to levy a local-option sales and use tax.
The bill, tabbed as LIFT (Local Investments For Transformation) also outlines restrictions on the amount — less than 1 percent — that can be taxed and what the revenues can be used for.
In Jessamine County, leaders have been discussing the bill’s merits, meaning and potential consequences. State Rep. Russ Meyer met with a number of officials last week to discuss the bill and to provide them with information.
A tax could be levied by a city or a county under the bill, but “the maximum aggregate rate that may be imposed within the boundaries of a single county” cannot be more than 1 percent. It must also be for a specific, limited timeline.
Also, revenue from a tax levied under the proposed legislation could only be used for capital projects. Wilmore mayor Harold Rainwater said some examples of what that could be in his city were infrastructure projects, streets, curbs, sidewalks and hiking trails.
“You know we’ve got areas of this town that still don’t have sidewalks,” Rainwater said. “The area I live in doesn’t have sidewalks.”
And, ultimately, a local-option tax under the bill must be voted on by citizens in order to be implemented.
Rainwater said he’s in favor of a local-option tax being an available option for citizens of cities and counties to complete projects in their community.
“It works in other states, lets the locals decide what they want to tax and how much they want to tax, and how that is to be used. So, I would be in favor of that,” Rainwater said. “I’m not in favor of raising taxes, but I am in favor of local government having that choice.”
Rainwater added that he will be discussing a variety of issues with leaders of other small towns at Kentucky League of Cities next week.
Nicholasville mayor Pete Sutherland and Jessamine County judge-executive David West are both studying the bill. Sutherland said Tuesday he had not yet had the opportunity to discuss it with the city commissioners.
West said he has a clear understanding of what the bill is intended to do but is researching any negative implications or arguments against it in order to find a balanced perspective.
“What I’m doing right now is collecting information, because I not only want to hear the pro — I want to hear the con,” West said.
The LIFT bill, which is currently in the House committee for elections, constitutional amendments and intergovernmental affairs, will be taken up again when the General Assembly reconvenes in February.