Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is continuing his push for the local option sales tax, which would let communities vote on temporary sales tax increases to fund projects.
The Democratic mayor is facing opposition to the plan, but not from where you might expect. Much of the criticism of the effort comes from the political left.
In a 15-minute pitch in Frankfort, Fischer extolled the civic virtues of a sales tax that he says would be used to fund local projects chosen by committee and placed on a ballot before voters.
“We need additional capital sources," the mayor told his audience. "In the case of Louisville, 11 years ago four percent of our general fund was for pensions. Today it’s 15 percent. So it’s like a business, we’ve had an 11 percent increase in our expenses, but we haven’t been able to raise our prices; that is, we haven’t had a tax increase.”
But fellow Louisvillian and fellow Democrat Rep. Jim Wayne cited a study that showed the local option means lower income residents would pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than wealthier residents.
An economic think-tank says a raise in the minimum wage would benefit reduce child poverty and help about a quarter of Kentucky workers.
The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says a $10.10 an hour minimum wage would lead to a boost in consumer spending. That, they say, would spur job creation, and allow low-income families to make ends meet.
Opponents argue higher wages would force layoffs or cause businesses to raise prices. But center director Jason Bailey says it would actually keep employees in what are currently lower-paying jobs. That cuts the costs businesses pay to hire and train new workers.
“The lack of consumer spending is a big impediment to additional hiring; that additional money in people’s pockets, low-wage workers’ pockets at this time, money that they will then spend, could actually result in a small job gain," Bailey said.
Bailey supports a bill filed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that 57 percent of Kentuckians support the idea.
Stumbo’s measure would also require pay equity for women, who earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Governor Beshear has announced a new contract to remake a major interchange along the Interstate-69 corridor in Hopkins County.
The latest phase of the project involves creating a cloverleaf interchange connecting I-69 with the Breathitt-Pennyrile parkway, south of Madisonville.
The $29 million contract was awarded to the Nashville-based Rogers Group, Inc., and Louisville-based Qk4 Inc., with a completion date set for May of 2015. Kentucky’s stretch of I-69 will eventually run north to south from Henderson to Fulton, in far western Kentucky.
Political and business leaders hope upgrading the existing roadway will boost jobs and economic activity along the I-69 corridor.
Completing the project will mean major upgrades to parts of the Pennyrile, Western Kentucky, and Purchase Parkways, which were not built to handle traffic merging into 70-mile-per hour roadways.
A Kentucky nonprofit says a state earned income tax credit would help working families.
Kentucky Youth Advocates released an issue brief that says the credit would piggyback onto the federal earned income credit. That could yield up to $337 per applicant, with little to no administrative cost to state government.
The proposal could cost up to $134 million per year. But KYA Executive Director Terry Brooks says it would help pay for itself by putting money back into local economies.
“We know that families who get earned income credits are not going to take that refund and put it in their off-shore account. Instead, they’re going to be spending money at the local hardware store, at the local car repair shop, at the appliance store. They’re going to be taking their kids to the department store to buy them clothes for school.”
Neither Democratic nor Republican leadership is voicing support for comprehensive tax reform in the next year. But the earned income tax credit has bipartisan support on the federal level, and Brooks says the measure would likely enjoy the same in state government.
Since the beginning of the 1990's, the percentage of Kentucky's population comprised of immigrants has soared by more than 300%. While their overall number is still small, WKU economics professor Dr. Brian Strow says their effect is being felt and it's a net plus.
Strow's study shows immigrants locally have a higher employment percentage than native born people and a higher mean income. There's also a higher number who are self-employed.
Joe Corcoran spoke with Dr. Strow about the benefits of immigrant entrepreneurs.
Owensboro leaders announced Friday a project that will invest 44 million dollars in the city's downtown area. A key portion of that investment will be a new convention class Holiday Inn hotel, to be located on the west side of the newly planned convention center. In addition, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP has come to a preliminary agreement with the Riverfront Jam, LLC developers to relocate the Owensboro office to a downtown location.