Wilmore mayor Rainwater backs LIFT bill to give tax options to local governments – The Jessamine Journal

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.

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