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.
Though the effort for a local option sales tax lacks support from principals in the General Assembly, Mayor Greg Fischer and other leaders from Kentucky's largest communities still went to Frankfort on Tuesday to push for a constitutional amendment.
Calling themselves the Metropolitan Alliance for Growth, the group is creating its own draft of legislation for a local option sales tax—but they call it LIFT, for Local Investments for Transformation.
The alliance is encouraging lawmakers to tackle pension reforms and a constitution to allow a local option tax for infrastructure projects, to be decided by voters. The alliance—which Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray lead— is made up of local officials from the state's metro areas, including Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green and Northern Kentucky.
Bearing in mind legislative leaders' reservation about the local option sales tax, Fischer said the alliance is on a campaign to education people.
The mayors of Lexington and Louisville believe Kentucky needs a local option sales tax to stay competitive. The tax is levied temporarily to finance public infrastructure projects, but an opinion issued this week by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office says voters would first need to approve a constitutional amendment.
According to the opinion, local governments nor the General Assembly may enact a local option sales tax without changing the state constitution. The Courier-Journal reports the opinion was requested by the Louisville Metro Council. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray want counties to be able to locally increase the statewide sales tax and use the additional revenue for public projects. Voters would have to approve the tax and the projects it would fund in a local referendum.
In an opinion issued Monday by Attorney General Jack Conway, the first step would be amending the state constitution.