LIFT seems lost yet again in the state Senate

03/27/2016 01:23 PM

FRANKFORT — For yet another session a constitutional amendment to allow local-option sales taxing is on life support, according to the chairman of the committee where the bill is currently awaiting action.

House Bill 2 is nothing new for lawmakers. The proposal would allow local communities to enact up to a one-cent addition to the sales tax for certain public works projects that would be voted on by the local community and expire after the project is funded.

Advocates claim it is the purest form of democracy while opponents say it’s additional taxation on an over-taxed populace. For this session it might, yet again, simply be out of time, or at least that’s the excuse.

Senate Appropriations and Revenue Chairman Chris McDaniel told Pure Politics on Friday that the budget negotiations will likely steal whatever political attention is left in the room.

“I certainly think that it’s just about out of time,” the Taylor Mill Republican said. “Obviously we have to finish negotiating this budget. The biggest thing that we have to do as a General Assembly is to appropriate the funds to keep government running, and that’s going to consume our effort for the next several days.

“I think local option will have some real difficulty getting passed this session.”

The bill, which comes in the form of a constitutional amendment and as such demands a three-fifths majority in the chambers, would go to the people of Kentucky for their up or down vote this November if approved by lawmakers.

Complicating the issue, as the Louisville Courier-Journal pointed out on Friday, is an amendment tacked onto the bill by Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer.

The amendment would require that a quarter of all revenue raised from the tax increase would be sent to struggling state pension systems.

Thayer, R-Georgetown, has also stipulated in his amendment that dollars raised via the increase would not be allowed to be used to pay for the prevailing wage on construction projects funded through the penny sales tax increase that voters approved.

State prevailing wages are base pay rates for contractors and subcontractors on public works projects set by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and has been a major political issue for GOP members of the legislature who want to eliminate the law. Labor unions claim the wage is justified.

A clean version of the LIFT proposal left the state House on March 11 with a 60-31 vote, the bare minimum majority needed to move constitutional amendments in the General Assembly.

LIFT spokesperson Matt Erwin remained optimistic in the face of the challenges for the bill this year, pointing to the remaining legislative days and the bevy of support from business groups, organizations and local communities.

“As long as there is time on the clock there is opportunity for the Senate to move on LIFT,” Erwin said. “This measure was passed with strong bipartisan support in the House and we believe would have similar support in the Senate.

“With over 80 organizations pushing for LIFT and Gov. Bevin calling for a fair hearing we continue to believe LIFT deserves full and fair consideration in the Senate and a chance for the people of Kentucky to finally have their voice heard.”


Subscribe to email updates.

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