Stumbo's change on local option sales tax comes after Louisville business leaders make their case

03/24/2014 11:06 AM

For two of the last three Mondays, House Speaker Greg Stumbo has driven to Louisville to meet with business leaders, who delivered an overwhelming message to the House Speaker: pass the local option sales tax bill.

Stumbo said he was surprised that was atop their wish list and not “other issues,” like allowing casino gambling.

The local option sales tax constitutional amendment would give voters in cities the opportunity to approve up to another penny per dollar on the sales tax in order to pay for specific projects. When the projects are finished, that tax increase goes away.

The measure could come up on the House floor Monday, after House leaders pushed off the vote Friday in order to round up the last few votes to get the 60 necessary to pass a constitutional amendment.

About 15 Republicans are expected to vote for the measure and Democratic leaders — led by Democratic Whip Tommy Thompson who is sponsoring the bill — were trying to make sure more than 45 Democrats would commit to voting for it to give the measure some breathing room. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and many business leaders, such as Frost Brown Todd’s Ed Glasscock, have been pushing for the local option sales tax. They were in the House chambers Friday morning in anticipation of a vote but left shortly after 10 a.m. after learning the vote was being put off.

Stumbo had been leaning against the local option sales tax because he said he had some concerns about allowing cities to raise the sales tax when he said he believes the state needs more resources for education and health programs.

But he said the business owners and a push from Gov. Steve Beshear changed his mind.

Stumbo said the Louisville meetings weren’t connected to fundraisers for the Democratic House Caucus. And he said he’s not aware of whether the event was connected to any super PAC or 501©4 group that will support House Democratic candidates.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Stumbo said. “I didn’t ask them. I was asked to come down there. I’ve attended several of those things.”

While those outside groups cannot coordinate with candidates, groups in the past have brought in a candidate to speak to potential donors before organizers of the super PAC make their pitch to ask for money. Thomas Massie did that in 2012 and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did that as well heading into his ’12 run.

Meanwhile, the local option sales tax bill would face an uncertain future in the Senate even if it passed the House.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he won’t fight against the measure but is leaving it up to other proponents of the bill to drum up support for it.

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