Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Fischer and Gray on BEAM, Taxes, and Race Relations

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Mayors Greg Fischer of Louisville and Jim Gray of Lexington have developed a genuine friendship and a productive working relationship that long-time observers say benefits their cities.

Both mayors were elected in 2010, both graduated from Vanderbilt University, and both are native Kentuckians: Fischer is from Louisville, and Gray is from Glasgow. They also share strong business backgrounds: Fischer founded SerVend International and co-invented an automatic ice and beverage dispenser. Gray is the former CEO of Gray Construction.

They also share an enthusiasm for BEAM, the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement. That’s a regional economic partnership that unites the two medium-sized cities into a mega-region to help attract employers and highly skilled workers.

On a special live edition of One to One Monday night, we explored a number of issues and opportunities facing both cities, including BEAM and the local option sales tax, which both mayors want to see move through the 2014 General Assembly. I also asked them about the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy declaration, and the role of city mayors in facilitating productive race relations. Both men had interesting and compassionate responses:

You can watch the entire conversation here.

L.O.S.T. in Translation

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

I bet you didn’t get out of bed this morning thinking about a local option sales tax. But a number of the state’s business and political leaders are considering the issue as a way for cities to fund special projects during these tough economic times. We discussed the topic on Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight and I thought I’d share some of that conversation with you.

Since the adoption of the 1891 Kentucky Constitution, cities and counties in the Commonwealth have been preempted from levying or collecting what are called local option sales taxes (sometimes referred to as L.O.S.T.). According to the Kentucky League of Cities, 38 states across the country currently allow one or more of their local governments to collect the tax. Furthermore, all of our neighboring states except Indiana allow at least one local government to levy the tax. Kentucky communities generally rely on other means of collecting operating funds, such as payroll, property, and occupational taxes.

How would a city or county use the tax? One example cited in our discussion was Oklahoma City. Voters there approved local option sales taxes in 1993. Since then, the taxes have raised $990 million to fund a range of projects, including a new convention center, new facilities for the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA franchise, a new minor league ballpark, renovations to every public school, and public park and transportation improvements.

But as was pointed out on Kentucky Tonight, Oklahoma City is not poor – it collects substantial tax revenues from its vast energy businesses. Opponents also make the point that L.O.S.T is yet another tax burden on citizens, many of whom continue to struggle with the sluggish post-recession economy.

Our conversation included Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, Louisville Metro Councilman Ken Fleming, Kevin Gordon of the Independent Business Association of Northern Kentucky, and state Senator Kathy Stein of Lexington. Stein has sponsored legislation to put the local option sales tax on the ballot in the form of a constitutional amendment. Gordon blames legislators for not better managing state funds, which he says would make a local option sales tax unnecessary.


The Fiscal Cliff and the Kentucky Delegation

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Happy New Year!
You probably had a better New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day than the delegation representing Kentucky in the United States Congress. They celebrated the holiday negotiating, voting, and arguing over legislation to keep the nation from falling off the fiscal cliff.

And our two U.S. Senators were front and center before a national audience of cliff watchers and media the past few days.

Most analysts are giving Sen. Mitch McConnell kudos for asking Vice President Joe Biden, an old Senate colleague, to join the negotiations for the deal that keeps taxes from going up on most Americans. McConnell voted for the legislation.

Sen. Paul, who was on the Senate floor and national television before the Senate voted to pass the legislation, was one of only 8 Senators to vote against the bill.

On the House side, the measure passed 257 to 167. Among the Kentucky congressmen, Hal Rogers (R), Ben Chandler (D), and John Yarmuth (D), voted for the deal. Ed Whitfield (R), Brett Guthrie (R), and Thomas Massie (R), voted against the deal.

Guthrie, from Bowling Green, had this to say, “I have said it from the very beginning that ensuring we do not go over the fiscal cliff should be a combination of tax reforms that are vital to the health of our nation. For too long, House Republicans were told they would see a good-faith discussion on spending cuts. Yet again, we have been told no, that spending cuts will come next time.”

There was no “big deal.” It appears there will be more fireworks down the road when Congress and the president try to cap government spending and attack the deficit facing the nation.

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