Mayor Greg Fischer is challenging residents to invest in Louisville—so the city can speed growth and establish itself as an internationally competitive metro area.

At the annual State of the City address on Thursday, Fischer said “we’ve got to up our game” to keep up with other cities.

“We’re not investing fast enough in our built environment, not when we compare ourselves to the best growing cities around the world,” said Fischer,  speaking to a full room in the Triple Crown Club at Churchill Downs.

Fischer said cities such as Indianapolis, Nashville and Oklahoma City will “blow by us” if residents don’t push for the adoption of a local option sales tax to allow for projects that improve quality of life.

For most of the address, Fischer lobbied for the local option sales tax, or as he calls it, LIFT, for Local Investments for Transformation.

He said the push to get lawmakers to move toward allowing a local option sales tax will be his top legislative priority in the coming year. A local option sales tax systems, generally, allow communities implement on themselves a temporary tax dedicated to paying for specific projects.

“We’ve got to find a way to pay for the future,” he said.  “I know that LIFT is a critical tool that we need now to address the investment challenges and stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.”

Fischer said a 1 percent sales tax would generate nearly $130 million annually.  This would be enough to pay for the 100-mile Louisville Loop and fund the construction of two regional libraries, he said.

If state lawmakers don’t allow Kentuckians to vote in a state referendum on a local option sales tax, Fischer said, it would take 15 to 20 years of “cobbling these funds together form various funding sources while competitive cities thank us for being dysfunctional and blow by us.”

Fischer also addressed the nearly 80,000 ideas residents submitted as part of the Vision Louisville Plan.   He said it was exciting to see ideas that range from a swimming lake in the Portland area to a zip line across the Ohio River. And he said the economic opportunity that comes with these ideas “makes you want them today.”

“The reality is,” he said.  “We only get there one day at a time.”

To read Fischer’s full speech, go here.




Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.