Fate of local option sales tax bill uncertain as House Democratic leaders split

03/11/2014 12:14 PM

The proposed constitutional amendment to allow communities to approve a sales tax increase to fund specific projects got enough votes to pass a state House committee Tuesday, but that wasn’t the toughest vote it faces.

The proposal would have to get support of three of the five House Democratic leaders to go to the House floor. And as of Tuesday morning, it had just two.

Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Philpot and the House Democratic whip, is sponsoring the measure. The other leader supporting it is Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, who is the House Democratic caucus chairman. She voted with five other lawmakers for the bill in the House Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, which passed it 6-3.

On the other side is House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, who explained his vote against the bill in committee as philosophically motivated. With the state government strapped for cash and unable to find money to restore a proposed 2.5 percent cut to public universities, Clark said he couldn’t justify approving a way to increase the sales tax unless it goes to the state coffers.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo echoed Clark’s remarks. He said cities have other options to raise revenue.

That leaves House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Morehead, as the swing vote. Adkins hasn’t publicly announced whether he will support the measure going to the House floor.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray are among the chief proponents of the local option sales tax. It would change the state constitution to allow communities to pay for projects using up to a one-cent increase to the sales tax, which is six cents on every dollar. Voters would have to approve the project and the local sales tax increase. And the tax would go away upon the completion of the project, like a downtown development, sports complex, YMCA or another community enhancement project.

If it goes to the House floor, it needs 60 votes to head to the Senate, where 23 of the 38 senators must approve it because it’s a constitutional amendment. Then it would head to the ballot this fall for state voters’ approval.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.