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'Local Investments for Transformation' debate gets real: Curtis Morrison previews 2013 Kentucky General Assembly

by Curtis Morrison

Imagine this baby jetting from Brandenburg to Louisville in 30 minutes.

(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of 3. Part 1 was on Pensions and Obamacare. Come back for Part 3 on drinking on election days, angel investor tax credits, redefining “dog owner,” casinos, and that bill to deal with the inevitable fraternal order issues that come up with living wills.)

KACo stands for Kentucky Association of Counties, an association created 38 years ago, the same year of the Super Outbreak of 138 tornadoes that swept through our 10-state region.

Much unlike a typical session of the Kentucky General Assembly, KACo is not as destructive as 138 tornadoes.

Outside of Louisville and Lexington, where city and county governments are consolidated, crises even a fraction of the size of the Super Outbreak create ginormous problems for small, local, rural governing.

In 118 Kentucky counties, solutions to these problems are handled by County Judge-Executives, Magistrates, Commissioners, PVA Administrators, County Clerks, Sheriffs, Circuit Court Clerks and it goes on.

Essentially, they ARE county governments, and this is their conference.

Local Investments for Transformation

Wednesday kicked off the KACo Conference and Exposition at the Galt House East, where Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Kentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson both advocated for a local option sales tax.

Fischer joked he decided against calling the proposal the Local Option Sales Tax-proposal, as the acronym would be LOST. Instead of that, Fischer’s calling the proposal the Local Investments for Transformation, or LIFT. Leave it to Fischer to find a way to Thomas Mertonize a sales tax proposal.

Seriously, we’ve all traveled to places like Denver and wondered how they get incredible infrastructure projects benefitting the public good completed.

This is how they do it.

View Fischer’s complete speech here:

Abramson agreed with Fischer on the essential need for local option sales taxes, and he leaked other recommendations that the Blue Ribbon Commission will soon be proposing for adoption by the General Assembly. An exciting one, from my perspective, is taxing services.

View excerpt of Abramson’s speech here:

Three-fifths of the General Assembly needs to approve this thing, and then voters would need to approve it in a statewide referendum, before our constitution is amended to even allow cities or counties to have their own referendums. So it’s a long-range thing. The bill proposing the LIFT has not yet been pre-filed, but expect it to have a strategic sponsor that recognizes the value of this initiative for less urban areas of the state.

House Speaker Rep. Greg Stumbo, in between about a dozen country anecdotes, expressed a reservation Wednesday with the LIFT proposal. His concern was for the retailers of big-ticket items located in areas where people chose to raise the sales tax. He fears they may suffer competition from retailers in counties that choose not to levy additional local sales tax:

…It doesn’t make any sense to me, that Jenny, if you guys can propose a 2 cent sales tax here, then why would I come here and buy a car? When I could go over to Shelbyville and buy the same car and save 2 cents over the purchase price of the car?

 View Stumbo’s rebuttal here:

Here comes the funny.

Stumbo went on in his speech to passionately advocate for light rail in Kentucky, “to help bridge the gap between Have and Have not, Kentucky.” Pretty ambitious, and yeah, I’ll say it: It’s transformative.

A member of the audience asked Stumbo the magic question:“Without meaningful tax reform, how would you fund that?”

A snip of Stumbo’s answer:

…But you’d probably have to have some source, a dedicated source of revenue to do that with that would likely, uh, be some, some way to pay for whatever bonds were required to construct that. You’d have to look at some, it’s kind of like the bridges. People don’t want to talk about it…

In other words, Stumbo doesn’t know how we’d pay for light rail, and he’d rather not talk about that part, but isn’t it a darn good idea?

 View Stumbo’s advocacy for light rail in Kentucky here:

Guys … if you’re reading:

Stumbo: Fischer and Abramson have a way to pay for light rail. (See above)

Fischer/Abramson: Stumbo has a way to sell the LIFT to Western Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky. Hell, even to Somerset. (See above)

Y’all need to get a room somewhere, with a hot tub, and figure this one out.

Pension crisis/Fairness

A hit tip goes to Louisville’s own Jefferson County Judge-Executive Bryan Mathews for having the courage in his speech to address other important work ahead for Kentucky legislators:

“…the most important component of this conference is discussion about public pensions. Of all the proposals I’ve seen so far, I prefer the KACo plan.”

Unlike the bills pre-filed so far for the General Assembly ‘s next session that only pretend to address the pension crisis (See Part 1), the 8-point KACo plan is comprehensive. Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) and Rep. Mike Cherry (D-Princeton) have both pledged to pre-file bills that include the provisions of the KACo plan, although they haven’t done so just yet.

Mathews also advocated for fairness ordinances for counties across Kentucky, like a rock star. Louisville has had a fairness ordinance, protecting gays, lesbians and transgenders from discrimination in housing, employment and accommodation, for over a decade already.

The ‘one-place-at-a-time’ approach to extending protections across Kentucky could have promise, and ultimately translate into a victory for those protections statewide when, well, when all these old White guys spend more time listening to their grandchildren, and less time listening to each other.

View Mathews complete speech here:

The KACo conference wraps up Friday morning with a round table with political reporters, an update from Attorney General Jack Conway, a motivational talk by Rob Bell and an update from Denny Nunnelley, KACo’s Executive Director.

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  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    Unless these local option taxes are dedicated to a stated, very specific thing, I would fight against them. The money just can’t go into a county’s general fund. Oh, and it needs an end date, too. For instance, we want to build a fence around Louisville. Fine. Levy the tax, raise the money, build the fence, then roll it up and end it.

    The real problem here is this….do you really trust Fischer or the next mayor to NOT hand this money out for shit like Cordish or to fund a union-busting GLI?

    I don’t.

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    Unless these local option taxes are dedicated to a stated, very specific thing, I would fight against them. The money just can’t go into a county’s general fund. Oh, and it needs an end date, too. For instance, we want to build a fence around Louisville. Fine. Levy the tax, raise the money, build the fence, then roll it up and end it.

    The real problem here is this….do you really trust Fischer or the next mayor to NOT hand this money out for shit like Cordish or to fund a union-busting GLI?

    I don’t.

  • http://twitter.com/DFCobb Douglas Cobb

    Light rail again? Will we never learn? Light rail doesn’t work ANYWHERE: everywhere it has been tried is underutilized and requires ridiculous subsidies. It is a fantasy of the liberal left. Please let’s escape from utopia and concentrate on solving Kentucky’s real problems.

  • Douglas Cobb

    Light rail again? Will we never learn? Light rail doesn’t work ANYWHERE: everywhere it has been tried is underutilized and requires ridiculous subsidies. It is a fantasy of the liberal left. Please let’s escape from utopia and concentrate on solving Kentucky’s real problems.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705981775 Curtis Morrison

    Glad you brought this up. They would be. After the constitution is amended, then there would be specific ballot initiatives that voters would need to approve, and retirement after those bonds are paid will be built into the bill.
    And if the only objection Stumbo can come up with is the precious auto dealer industry might move more to Shelbyville, well then buh bye. Besides, we won’t need cars in the city if we do this right.
    Brian- Watch Stumbo’s video on light rail and think of how awesome it would be if people in Brandenburg could stay living where they’re from, and get to Riverport jobs, or Ford/ GE, on a fancy people train? That has the potential to provide almost immeasurable value to a place that really could use it, and maybe even an expanded work force that could attract more jobs.
    Or we could use a 1/8 cent tax to build a bridge between PRP and Indiana.
    Options would be endless. Right now, the only options for investing in local infrastructure are tolls, and we know that’s the slippery road to privatization.
    Let me buy you a drink and talk about it?

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    Glad you brought this up. They would be. After the constitution is amended, then there would be specific ballot initiatives that voters would need to approve, and retirement after those bonds are paid will be built into the bill.
    And if the only objection Stumbo can come up with is the precious auto dealer industry might move more to Shelbyville, well then buh bye. Besides, we won’t need cars in the city if we do this right.
    Brian- Watch Stumbo’s video on light rail and think of how awesome it would be if people in Brandenburg could stay living where they’re from, and get to Riverport jobs, or Ford/ GE, on a fancy people train? That has the potential to provide almost immeasurable value to a place that really could use it, and maybe even an expanded work force that could attract more jobs.
    Or we could use a 1/8 cent tax to build a bridge between PRP and Indiana.
    Options would be endless. Right now, the only options for investing in local infrastructure are tolls, and we know that’s the slippery road to privatization.
    Let me buy you a drink and talk about it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/scotthack Scott Hack

    One of my concerns regarding the rural to city light rail that Stumbo proposed is… What if it doesn’t spur new business? Then you essentially create a bigger jobs problem for the bigger cities themselves by creating a larger work force who would be competing for the same jobs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scotthack Scott Hack

    One of my concerns regarding the rural to city light rail that Stumbo proposed is… What if it doesn’t spur new business? Then you essentially create a bigger jobs problem for the bigger cities themselves by creating a larger work force who would be competing for the same jobs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705981775 Curtis Morrison

    Forgive me if something changed in the 3 months I was away in Iowa, but aren’t these real Kentucky problems:
    1) Need for more good-paying jobs,

    2) Access to prosperity for the rural majority of Kentuckians who, frankly, have just been left behind by the 21 century,

    3) Deteriorating existing infrastructure,

    4) Dwindling contribution from federal and state governments to local governments, choking their ability to govern effectively, or even operate at all. That’s off the top of my head.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    Forgive me if something changed in the 3 months I was away in Iowa, but aren’t these real Kentucky problems:
    1) Need for more good-paying jobs,

    2) Access to prosperity for the rural majority of Kentuckians who, frankly, have just been left behind by the 21 century,

    3) Deteriorating existing infrastructure,

    4) Dwindling contribution from federal and state governments to local governments, choking their ability to govern effectively, or even operate at all. That’s off the top of my head.

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    This is the same as it ever was +1. Areas with no political power will be left behind, just as they are now. People living east of I-65 will never submit to willfully paying for something in the west end. Or south end. Or southwest. Those ballot initiatives would all be defeated. The only winners would be the ones who already win (New-Loo). I’m pretty sure a fancy bike station on Market St. is the last thing a guy in Valley Station is interested in, especially when his ‘hood has no sidewalks.

    What’s the score here? Cordish/Yum Center drains the metro budget so the city folk have to pony up for roads and shit? Why don’t we just retire to our neighborhood tribal councils and pass a hat?

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    This is the same as it ever was +1. Areas with no political power will be left behind, just as they are now. People living east of I-65 will never submit to willfully paying for something in the west end. Or south end. Or southwest. Those ballot initiatives would all be defeated. The only winners would be the ones who already win (New-Loo). I’m pretty sure a fancy bike station on Market St. is the last thing a guy in Valley Station is interested in, especially when his ‘hood has no sidewalks.

    What’s the score here? Cordish/Yum Center drains the metro budget so the city folk have to pony up for roads and shit? Why don’t we just retire to our neighborhood tribal councils and pass a hat?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705981775 Curtis Morrison

    Would that be creating a bigger jobs problem for bigger cities, or would that would be bigger cities and rural areas coming to the realization that they share the same jobs problem? I don’t know where your from, but my people are from the country, where our food is grown. Their jobs problem is our jobs problem.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    Would that be creating a bigger jobs problem for bigger cities, or would that would be bigger cities and rural areas coming to the realization that they share the same jobs problem? I don’t know where your from, but my people are from the country, where our food is grown. Their jobs problem is our jobs problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705981775 Curtis Morrison

    This could empower areas with no political power to not be left behind. The bill’s not been proposed yet, what if 3rd, 4th, 5th class cities could levy sales taxes, too? Example: My Jeep needs a new exhaust system, which I loyally get from Highway Mufflers in Shively. If Shively had a 1% higher sales tax, that’s $5 extra that could be spent by the people of Shively making Shively more special.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    This could empower areas with no political power to not be left behind. The bill’s not been proposed yet, what if 3rd, 4th, 5th class cities could levy sales taxes, too? Example: My Jeep needs a new exhaust system, which I loyally get from Highway Mufflers in Shively. If Shively had a 1% higher sales tax, that’s $5 extra that could be spent by the people of Shively making Shively more special.

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    No, really….It’s time for Fischer et al to stop stealing other people’s ideas and have an original thought for a change. Time to lead. Seriously. I mean, they may as well have elected ME as mayor. I could have flown across the country and stolen any number of policy ideas. And I could have done it two whole years earlier.

    What would you say about a guy who goes to Vegas, then comes home and says “I got it. 24-7 gambling. That’s our new plan.” Well, that’s what this is.

    Is this what people want? To have a guy who copies ideas from other places that have no relation to or basis in reality with the place in which he lives?

    This plan may work in Oklahoma City. Well, guess what? This ain’t Oklahoma City.

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    No, really….It’s time for Fischer et al to stop stealing other people’s ideas and have an original thought for a change. Time to lead. Seriously. I mean, they may as well have elected ME as mayor. I could have flown across the country and stolen any number of policy ideas. And I could have done it two whole years earlier.

    What would you say about a guy who goes to Vegas, then comes home and says “I got it. 24-7 gambling. That’s our new plan.” Well, that’s what this is.

    Is this what people want? To have a guy who copies ideas from other places that have no relation to or basis in reality with the place in which he lives?

    This plan may work in Oklahoma City. Well, guess what? This ain’t Oklahoma City.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705981775 Curtis Morrison

    It also kicked some major ass in Denver, and don’t forget there are almost 40 states that already allow it. Brian- we’re on the same side, we both realize that government services are important to a vibrant community, but property assessments are down. Federal, state funding to local level is down. How you want to bridge the gap? I’m listening…

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    It also kicked some major ass in Denver, and don’t forget there are almost 40 states that already allow it. Brian- we’re on the same side, we both realize that government services are important to a vibrant community, but property assessments are down. Federal, state funding to local level is down. How you want to bridge the gap? I’m listening…

  • trepryor

    Mr. Cobb is right. It takes massive population to make the numbers work. That’s not what Louisville needs.

  • trepryor

    Mr. Cobb is right. It takes massive population to make the numbers work. That’s not what Louisville needs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705981775 Curtis Morrison

    Let’s put aside Louisville’s needs for a moment, Stumbo is looking at a bigger picture, Kentucky’s needs.
    If you haven’t got a chance, I recommend you view the 2nd video of him above where he talks about what it could do for outside of Louisville.

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    Let’s put aside Louisville’s needs for a moment, Stumbo is looking at a bigger picture, Kentucky’s needs.
    If you haven’t got a chance, I recommend you view the 2nd video of him above where he talks about what it could do for outside of Louisville.

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    How we got here is pretty simple to explain. How we get out is another matter entirely. Bridge the gap? As with all things, let’s start with a leader. No one proposal is going to be a cure-all. I don’t know what the answer is, I confess. I probably never will. But I don’t think the answer is contained in a system that sets up a fight on local priorities in a community that is so wholly divided by economic status.

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    How we got here is pretty simple to explain. How we get out is another matter entirely. Bridge the gap? How about we stop giving away what we DO collect via property tax abatements.

    I don’t know what the whole answer is, I confess. I probably never will. But I don’t think the answer is contained in a system that sets up a fight on local priorities in a community that is so wholly divided by economic status.

  • Stunoland

    This is a baby step in the right direction but it does not go nearly far enough to correct the crippling drain of Frankfort on Louisville’s resources. The sad truth is that KY is an economically dysfunctional State that Louisville will be strongly subsidizing for the foreseeable future. More so than any other State KY is structurally built to favor rural interests. Louisville receives approx 65 cents back on the tax dollar which may be the worst rate in the country. Resources matter and there is a cumulative effect of decades of economically inefficient state-wide resource allocation. KY is facing hurricane strength economic headwinds so this situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. The only way I see to fix this crippling imbalance is to trap non-local tax dollars through true casinos with professional sports gaming.

    Louisville needs to maximize the economic potential of its unique cultural heritage by extending proffesional sports wagering to competitors on 2 legs. Louisville’s leadership must push for Louisville specific wagering laws, build a downtown casino (surrounded by a mall), tax profits at approx. 36%, and peel off specific revenue streams for strategic investments. Using a downtown casinos/retail center with pro-sports wagering as an economic development tool is not a panacea for all that ails the city, but it is a prerequisite to building a vibrant and diverse regional economy.

  • Stunoland

    This is a baby step in the right direction but it does not go nearly far enough to correct the crippling drain of Frankfort on Louisville’s resources. The sad truth is that KY is an economically dysfunctional State that Louisville will be strongly subsidizing for the foreseeable future. More so than any other State KY is structurally built to favor rural interests. Louisville receives approx 65 cents back on the tax dollar which may be the worst rate in the country. Resources matter and there is a cumulative effect of decades of economically inefficient state-wide resource allocation. KY is facing hurricane strength economic headwinds so this situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. The only way I see to fix this crippling imbalance is to trap non-local tax dollars through true casinos with professional sports gaming.

    Louisville needs to maximize the economic potential of its unique cultural heritage by extending proffesional sports wagering to competitors on 2 legs. Louisville’s leadership must push for Louisville specific wagering laws, build a downtown casino (surrounded by a mall), tax profits at approx. 36%, and peel off specific revenue streams for strategic investments. Using a downtown casinos/retail center with pro-sports wagering as an economic development tool is not a panacea for all that ails the city, but it is a prerequisite to building a vibrant and diverse regional economy.

  • Stunoland

    Unless Louisville starts embracing pragmatic changes this city will remain at the bottom of most economic metrics. Sure the city will grow (as virtually all US cities will in the 21st century) but it will be sprawling and inefficient growth that almost exclusively focuses on low to moderate value added economic sectors.

  • Stunoland

    Unless Louisville starts embracing pragmatic changes this city will remain at the bottom of most economic metrics. Sure the city will grow (as virtually all US cities will in the 21st century) but it will be sprawling and inefficient growth that almost exclusively focuses on low to moderate value added economic sectors.

  • Stunoland

    rural to city light-rail in this area is ridiculous and could only come from the economically illiterate rural biased KY State legislature.

  • Stunoland

    rural to city light-rail in this area is ridiculous and could only come from the economically illiterate rural biased KY State legislature.

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