The overwhelming opposition to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed LG&E fee is forcing Metro Council leaders to find a compromise ahead of Thursday’s vote.
As WFPL News reported earlier this week, a vast majority of the citizens weighing in on the proposed fee have been against the idea. Hundreds have lodged their complaints with lawmakers and the mayor’s office.
With the vote’s passage hanging in the balance, Council President Jim King, D-10, and Budget Vice Chair Kelly Downard, R-16, are working to decrease the tax on natural gas from 3 percent to as low as 1.5 percent in the hopes of it passing.
Downard’s fellow Republicans have made clear that they’re not accepting that offer, either.
“We are not in favor of a percent franchise fee, period. Period,” said Councilman Kevin Kramer, the GOP caucus chair.
If the remaining eight council Republicans and Democrat Brent Ackerson—who has gone on record opposing the 3 percent fee—stand together, three more votes will defeat the mayor’s plan.
Among the other 16 council Democrats, two will be out of town on vacation this week. Budget Chair Marianne Butler, D-15, plans to abstain because she is an LG&E employee.
Kramer told WFPL the GOP caucus is in discussions with a handful of Democrats who may stand against the fee, but he wouldn’t name those members.
Here is a rundown of which Council Democrats many GOP staffers and City Hall sources believe could swing either way.
Attica Scott, District 1
A vocal critic of the Fischer administration, Scott isn’t afraid to part ways with the Democratic majority. She is also free from any political backlash since she lost her primary election last month.
For the past few days Scott has been soliciting feedback from constituents, and it appears she is leaning towards voting against the fee.
In an online message via Twitter, Scott suggested the mayor’s fee should be applied to businesses rather than individuals: “What if instead of a fee on a basic human need, we charged big box retailers like Walmart a developer impact fee?”
David James, District 6
The councilman is a solid Democratic vote in most cases, especially when it comes to labor and public safety concerns.
A former Louisville Fraternal Order of Police president, James has for at least a decade called for the city to increase police officers on Louisville’s streets. But he is also receiving a high volume of phone calls and e-mails against the gas tax, according to one of his aides.
James is still weighing all of the responses and amendments, but remains unsure on how he will vote Thursday.
Cindi Fowler, District 14
A reticent freshman on the council, Democrat Cindi Fowler comes from a district in deep southwest Louisville that is known to buck downtown interests.
“I am still looking into it. We’ve got a lot to discuss,” Fowler said.
“My main concern is not only downtown but the young man killed on the TARC bus went to school in my district and was in the basketball league my grandson played on. The area is not only downtown that has a problem, it could be here, too.”
The feedback to Fowler’s office from constituents has been about 50-to-1 against the tax, she told WFPL.
Supporters of the fee argue the teen violence in March needs to be tackled with additional police officers and youth programs, she added.
For now, Fowler said she is leaning towards amending the fee to be less than $1 per month for residents, but she believes Metro Police vacancies need to be filled.
Mary Woolridge, District 3, and Madonna Flood, District 24
The two councilwomen represent districts that have large incorporated cities, which means many of their constituents would be exempt from the 3 percent gas tax.
Under state law, Metro Government cannot force a rate increase of any kind of residents who live in those smaller cities, such as Okolona in Flood’s district and Shively in Woolridge’s. When the Fischer administration came up with the same fee proposal three years ago, many council Democrats said it was unfair, at best.
Woolridge and Flood have kept their intentions close to the chest and have been listening to both sides, a Democratic source said.
Their chief concern is the uneven distribution of the fee along with overall hikes, such as the 5.5 percent increase to Metropolitan Sewer District bills and possibly Louisville Water Co., the source added.