Sales tax increase pushed as alternative to bridge tolls - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Sales tax increase pushed as alternative to bridge tolls

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Tolls and higher taxes -- that's the idea gaining key support that could see Louisville paying for new Ohio River bridges here and near Cincinnati.

The Brent Spence Bridge links Northern Kentucky to southern Ohio on Interstate 71.  President Obama stood on it in 2011 talking about how it needs to be replaced.

If one developer has his way, Louisville taxpayers could get slapped with part of the bill.  "The proposal is we raise the sales tax by one cent to seven cents -- or one percent," says Math Toebben, a developer with Math Toebben Construction.

Toebben doesn't just want to increase the state sales tax.  He also wants to restructure the gas tax, saving Kentucky drivers about ten cents a gallon.  By Toebben's estimates, the proposed changes would generate $350 million more tax revenue each year in Kentucky -- enough to avoid tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge and fund other road projects in Kentucky.

State Rep. Jim Wayne, a Louisville Democrat, says, "The main reason it's a bad idea is because a sales tax is the most regressive tax we can have.  And that means it hurts working class people and the poor much more heavily than it does the wealthy."

Thirteen lawmakers in northern Kentucky stand firmly against tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge.

Toebben himself, when asked how a higher sales tax for people in Louisville who will already be paying tolls, helps them, responded, "Because you save the gasoline tax.  You benefit like anybody else."

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says whatever comes of Toebben's idea, the looming tolls on the bridges in Louisville will move forward.

But taxpayer Donna DeGraff says, "It's a big concern.  I have a lot of friends in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.  We've been talking about it. Why do we need to pay for what they need up north?"

Another taxpayer, Dorothy Morris, says, "It will be interesting to know what a lower gas tax would mean as far as the price of gas."

The proposal needs a bill sponsor to pass the legislature as well as a possible amendment to the Kentucky constitution.

There is a consensus that Kentucky's gas tax may need restructuring as cars become more fuel efficient.  Some state leaders suggest taxing drivers by the amount of miles they travel.

It may be considered when the legislature goes back into session in January.

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