Local option sales tax advances in Frankfort - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Local option sales tax advances in Frankfort

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House Speaker Greg Stumbo House Speaker Greg Stumbo
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - The local-option sales tax issue moved ahead Tuesday in Frankfort with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's backing, but its future is in doubt.

House Bill 399, which would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment allowing them to then decide whether to raise their own municipal sales tax, advanced out of the House Elections committee. The bill in sponsored by Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro.

Louisville lawmakers are split on measure, despite Fischer making regular trips to the state Capitol to ask for their support. Leaders in the House are also divided, with Speaker Greg Stumbo saying he didn't know whether the issue would come up for a vote.

"I don't think it's good for the State of Kentucky," Stumbo said, calling it "bad policy" because a local sales tax would make voters less likely to approve an increase in the statewide sales tax in future years.

According to studies from the University of Louisville, many cities similar in size to Louisville already have a local-option sales tax. Fischer said last week the 1-cent tax could help build a regional library, the Louisville Loop, or fix crumbling sidewalks.

If voters approve, a Louisville tax commission would choose the project to pursue. Metro Council would have to agree on the ballot language, before putting the question back to voters. The tax would go away once the project is finished, Fischer has said repeatedly.

The Kentucky Retail Federation told lawmakers Tuesday that the extra sales tax will hurt Louisville businesses. Citing an internal poll, a representative for a federation of small businesses said 76 percent of owners opposed the tax.

Fischer questioned the numbers that opponents cited.

"If you don't invest, then you shrink and fade away," he said. "You have to invest to thrive and prosper. Any winning city that you see is investing in itself."

The measure now moves to the full House. Thompson said he hadn't started doing vote counts to see whether the bill could succeed.

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