KY House passes Local Option Sales Tax

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky House of Representatives Friday approved the so-called Local Option Sales Tax.

After a vigorous debate on the House floor, the proposal passed by a margin of almost 2 to 1.

It's a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow communities to vote on a temporary one-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for specific projects.

“It's done in other states across the nation rather effectively,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) told lawmakers during the debate.

Republican Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown), who is co-sponsoring the bill, says Local Option is the most basic form of democracy.

“I have always believed that this was an opportunity for local governments to make local decisions, for local citizens to be involved in making decisions on projects that may be important to their community,” said Hoover.

Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville) calls Local Option a bad idea, saying sales taxes unfairly impact the poor.

“The poor people in my district spend every buck that they make to survive; to keep their bodies and souls together,” said Wayne.

But supporters point out, no increase happens without voter approval.

“We want no taxation without representation, and this bill does it the very best way. It takes it directly to the people,” said Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville.)

The bill passed 60-31.

Among the "no" votes were Wayne, considered one of the House's most liberal members, and Rep. Phil Moffett, one of the most conservative.

Moffett says Local Option should be part of a larger tax reform package.

“Our tax system is so convoluted, it's impossible for someone wanting to relocate to Kentucky to be able to understand it enough to understand how they're going to be taxed,” Moffett told WDRB News.

If Local Option passes the Senate, voters statewide must still approve at the ballot next fall.

Local Option has passed the House before only to die in the Senate.

But supporters are hoping this is the year for a breakthrough.

Following the vote, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a vocal supporter of Local Option, released the following statement:

"Giving citizens the right to vote is a bedrock principle of American democracy -- and today, members of the Kentucky House gave Kentuckians a voice on investing in their communities through the local option. I encourage the Senate to also consider this important legislation, giving local communities a right to control their own futures."

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