Metro Council votes down plan for tax increases, must now go through budget to find millions to cut

Metro Council rejects tax increase, votes to cut $35 million from city budget

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After weeks of debate, the Louisville Metro Council voted against a plan designed to fix the city’s $65 million budget shortfall.

The plan presented to the council Thursday combined budget cuts with new tax revenue in the form of raised insurance premiums.

It failed, with 15 members voting against it and only 11 voting for it.

This is how Metro Council members voted for and against a proposed tax increase. (Source: MetroTV)
This is how Metro Council members voted for and against a proposed tax increase. (Source: MetroTV)

Back in February, Mayor Greg Fischer said the city would have to find $65 million in budget cuts. He said rising pension obligations created a shortfall in the city’s budget over the next four years.

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Fischer then proposed the solution was to create more revenue by raising taxes on several types of insurance for Louisville residents, instead of any budget cuts. The mayor asked for an insurance tax increase of 12.5 percent.

The council’s budget committee amended the mayor’s request to propose a 9.5 percent increase on insurance tax. The plan also included $32 million in cuts over the next three years, including the closures of two fire stations and taking one ambulance off the street.

Before the vote Thursday, very few actually stood up to vocalize their opposition of the tax increase, even though the increase was voted down.

“The citizens of Louisville are among the most taxed in the country,” Gerald Wright said during the citizen address. “We have, year after year, the 10th or 11th highest tax burden of any city in the country. The time has come to say to this mayor -- enough is enough.”

Now that the plan has failed to pass Metro Council, there will be no tax increase for residents.

“Regardless of what happens tonight, our work is just beginning,” Councilman Kevin Triplett (D-District 15) said.

Council members must now try to find the millions of dollars to make up the city’s shortfall by cutting from the budget. That process usually happens in May and June.

Fischer responded to the vote, saying he will submit a budget that includes $35 million in cuts for the next fiscal year. Here’s his full statement:

"I am deeply disappointed and saddened for the people of Louisville by the Metro Council’s vote to cut $65 million in vital services from the city budget. The magnitude of this action by the Council will force cuts to services, including police, fire and EMS, along with cuts to programs that make a difference in the lives of people all over Louisville — libraries, community centers, Meals on Wheels, senior centers, paving projects, programs that work to keep our city healthy and clean, and many, many others. My thanks goes to the Council members who had the courage to vote against these cuts.

"On April 25, I will present a FY20 budget with the first year of cuts totaling $35 million, reflecting the service cuts that the majority of the Council voted for.

“Separately, the Council’s vote tonight to reverse their March 7 vote suspending the bond ordinance that would fund capital projects that they’d twice approved now must be reviewed in light of their subsequent vote to cut $65 million from Metro Government, to determine whether or not those projects can go forward.”

On top of the $35 million the city has to come up with in the next fiscal year, it also has to come up with $30 million over the next three years.

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