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Stumbo now open to local option sales tax, with 'reservations'

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 18 at 5:57 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's Local Option Sales Tax idea may not get LOST in Kentucky's General Assembly, after all.

For the first time, House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) said Wednesday that - despite some reservations - he is open to the proposal.

"I'm open," Stumbo told WHAS11 News. "I have some reservations about it."

They're the words local leaders have been anxiously waiting to hear. Before Greater Louisville Inc's legislative preview luncheon, Stumbo - who previously has voiced opposition to a local option sales tax - gave supporters reason for hope.
 
"I'm not opposed to the idea so much but we do have some discussion that needs to take place," Stumbo said.

The mayors office considers Stumbo and his Republican counterpart, Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), pivotal players in their push to allow Kentucky cities to raise local sales tax rates to fund big projects.

The legislative leaders ultimately control whether a bill gets a vote.

Supporters call the tax proposal - LIFT "Local Investments For Transformation."  It would amend Kentucky's constitution to allow voters in individual cities - like Louisville - to raise their own sales taxes as much as one percent to fund specific projects.

"Allow communities the tools to raise the revenues themselves," explained Craig Richard, Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO.

"If you give us this tool, you could use these other funds for other things, statewide initiatives," Richard continued.  "So, I believe that it could actually lessen the burden on the state budget and allow communities to be flexible, to develop the communities that they need for jobs and for talent."

"Their communities would be given the opportunity to vote for if they wanted it or not," Stumbo said.  "I'm all in line with that."

Yet, the House Speaker said local cities already have the authority to levy taxes on property and paychecks and suggested that by allowing cities in on Kentucky's turf, it could limit the state's options later.

"That's the state's tax," Stumbo said.  "And if we allow the larger metropolitan areas to do that, I doubt we'll ever see an increase at the state level for that tax."

The proposal needs approval of 60 percent of the General Assembly and a statewide vote to amend the Kentucky constitution. Then city leaders would have to agree on what projects would be funded and a city's citizens would have to vote to approve any tax increase.
 

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