Stumbo renews push for local-option sales tax

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – House Speaker Greg Stumbo renewed his push Monday to amend Kentucky’s Constitution to give local voters the option of temporarily raising sales taxes to pay for big-ticket construction projects.

After seeing the proposal die a year ago, Stumbo pitched the local option sales tax as a way to let Kentuckians “choose if they want to see a tax enacted upon themselves” to support specific projects.

The proposed constitutional amendment was approved by the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

When a local government wants to build something, the proposal would let them raise the local sales tax 1 percent to pay for it, but only if voters approved it in a referendum.

The tax would expire once bonds for the project are paid off.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a leading supporter of the proposal, called it “democracy at its finest.” He said it would create a potential pool of revenue for local governments struggling in tough budgetary times.

“The bottom line is … right now we don’t have the funds available at the state level to flow down to the local level to invest in the kind of things that we need to create jobs,” Fischer told reporters.

Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly also showed his support for the proposal. Mattingly said local governments are squeezed by demands to finance public safety, parks and other necessities.

As a result, he said, “when a project comes up that suits the folks that are in our communities, we don’t have the money to do it.”

After the measure cleared the committee, Stumbo said it might come up for a vote in the full House later in the week. A similar proposal passed the House last year but died in the Senate.

The measure has bipartisan support in the House, where Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican, is a key co-sponsor. One GOP committee member voted for the bill Monday and another opposed it. The panel’s Democrats backed the measure.

If it passes the House, the measure appears to face an uphill fight in the Senate.

“I’m not for it, and I don’t sense much support for it in the Senate,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said later in the day.