Greater Louisville Inc. opposes Fischer idea for natural gas fee - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Greater Louisville Inc. opposes Fischer idea for natural gas fee

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, urged its members on Thursday to oppose Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's proposed natural gas franchise fee, which would add about $20 a year to the average customer's gas bill in certain parts of the county.

"In essence this is a new $5 million per year tax on Louisville residents and businesses, making worse an already burdensome tax environment," the chamber said in an email to members.

Fischer is proposing a new franchise agreement with Louisville Gas & Electric that would raise gas bills by 3 percent annually, generating $4.8 million for the city. The increase would apply only to residents and businesses within the old Urban Services District and unincorporated parts of Jefferson County, said Steve Rowland, the city’s chief financial officer.

GLI said the tax would "unfairly impact" those portions of the county. Residents and businesses in dozens of suburban cities like Jeffersontown, St. Matthews and Shively would not have to pay the new tax.

The money raised would go towards hiring 24 new police officers; staff 14 employees in a “Real Time Crime Center,” which will monitor security cameras and analyze crime data; add a prosecutor in the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office specializing in heroin and narcotics; boost programming at community centers; and expand the Department of Corrections home-incarceration program.

"GLI is as concerned as the Mayor and Metro Council about public safety, however, we do not feel that imposing a new fee/tax is the right mechanism to fund additional initiatives," the GLI email said. "GLI believes that increased economic activity derived from policies that make it easier and less costly to do business will generate increased income for the city’s budget; raising the tide is a much better, fairer and more sustainable approach to increasing Metro government revenues than raising taxes."

The Metro Council would need to approve the new franchise fee, and the council budget committee is set to take it up tonight at its 6 pm meeting. GLI urged members to contact their representative on the Metro Council.

Included for the council's discussion is a proposed ordinance sponsored by Metro Council President Jim King and Metro Council member Kelly Downard that would give Fischer the power to renegotiate the franchise with LG&E and add the new fee -- but only for two years.

Fischer had previously proposed the fee as a way to raise new revenue in 2011, but the council turned back the plan. The difference this year is that the money would be reserved for policing and public safety. 

The measure failed three years ago due, in part, to questions about its fairness. The fee wouldn’t have applied to customers in the more than 80 independent cities left intact following the merger of the old City of Louisville and Jefferson County governments in 2003.

Here is the full text of the GLI email:

Dear GLI Member:

Greater Louisville Inc. is opposed to the proposed three percent (3%) natural gas franchise fee on many Metro Louisville residents and businesses. In essence this is a new $5 million per year tax on Louisville residents and businesses, making worse an already burdensome tax environment. Additionally, GLI has concerns with the implementation of this new franchise fee/tax. As proposed it would be unevenly applied across the community and would unfairly impact only residents and businesses in the Urban Service District and the unincorporated areas of Louisville Metro. Small businesses without the capacity to “wheel in” gas would be the most punitively burdened.

GLI is as concerned as the Mayor and Metro Council about public safety, however, we do not feel that imposing a new fee/tax is the right mechanism to fund additional initiatives. GLI believes that increased economic activity derived from policies that make it easier and less costly to do business will generate increased income for the city’s budget; raising the tide is a much better, fairer and more sustainable approach to increasing Metro government revenues than raising taxes.

At a minimum GLI believes that consideration of the fee/tax should be separate from the budget process so that the community can voice their comments and the Council will have sufficient time to consider the implications of the additional fee/tax.

This proposal is in front of the Louisville Metro Council Budget Committee tonight (Thursday May 29th) and goes to a vote at 6:00 p.m. We strongly urge you to contact your Metro Council representative and let them know you oppose this tax.



WDRB Web reporter Marcus Green contributed to this story. Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All rights reserved.
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