Politics

FRANKFORT— Democratic and Republican leaders in the Kentucky legislature are in a rare moment of accord on a top issue at the start of the 2015 session.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat out of Prestonsburg, are optimistic about the fate of a constitutional amendment to allow for a local option sales tax in the state.

Less than a month ago, Stumbo joined Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to announce that the local option sales tax would be the House’s top priority, labeling it House Bill 1. On Tuesday, Stumbo said he’s hearing positive preliminary feedback on the bill’s fate.

“Sen. Stivers said—and he said it very eloquently, I thought and pretty succinct—this is pure democracy, in its purest form, which I thought was a pretty positive sign,” Stumbo said. “And he also said something which I think is very appropriate and I hadn’t thought about. He mentioned that if we were going to do tax reform at some point in time…this is a tool.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, rightRae Hodge | wfpl.org

Senate President Robert Stivers, right

On Tuesday, the first day of the 2015 session, Stivers said he is fully supportive of the bill.

“You call it a local option sales tax. I call it a local option for people to decide their own fate,” Stivers said.

“I’m not going to push it. I’m not going to impose my will on the body but that’s democracy in its purest form. I could be for that. And I’ve said that publicly, that you go back to a local level on a sales tax that is evenly applied and if the residents of Jefferson County want to do that, then they’ll have the opportunity to vote on that.”

The most vocal opposition to the measure comes from left-leaning Democrats, including state Rep. Jim Wayne, of Louisville. Wayne fought against the local option sales tax last year.

“It disproportionately effects the poor, and asks them to pay for projects that benefit the wealthy,” Wayne said Tuesday.

House Bill 1 must first be assigned to a committee before reaching a full vote on the House floor, where it is expected to pass.