FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo made a sudden switch Thursday, throwing his support behind a local-option sales tax proposal he had previously criticized.
Stumbo's decision gives new life to House Bill 399, which would ask voters to change Kentucky's constitution and allow the tax. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has made the issue his top legislative priority, but its fate has been uncertain because of opposition from House leaders, including Stumbo.
Stumbo said a conversation with Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday afternoon changed his mind. Now, the measure could come up for a House vote as early as Friday.
"If we give the local municipalities more money, they wouldn't be up here asking for more state dollars for large projects," Stumbo said, citing recent requests for Rupp Arena and the KFC Yum! Center.
Beshear came to House Democrats' caucus meeting Thursday afternoon to generate support for the measure. House leaders need to get an accurate vote count before bringing the issue up on the floor, Stumbo said.
"Wow," Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said, when asked about Stumbo's decision. "I guess he didn't want to be a leader without his flock."
Feelings are mixed in the Senate about the local-option sales tax issue, Stivers said.
Even if the General Assembly and voters approve the constitutional amendment, people would need to vote again on a specific project brought forward by their municipality.
In Louisville, a tax commission would decide which projects to pursue with the one-cent sales tax increase, Fischer has said. Metro Council would need to agree before the question went on the ballot.
The tax increase could go toward building regional libraries or fixing Louisville sidewalks, among other proposals, Fischer has said.
Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, voted against the constitutional amendment bill in a House committee earlier this month. Clark and Stumbo's opposition had put the legislation's future in doubt, even though Fischer has argued there was enough support to pass the House.
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