Mayor Greg Fischer’s director of intergovernmental affairs briefed Metro Council’s Democratic Caucus on Thursday on his administration’s legislative agenda for the upcoming 2016 session of the General Assembly — and once again the passage of a local option sales tax is their No. 1 priority.
The LIFT initiative — a constitutional amendment allowing local governments to increase their sales tax by 1 percent, with that revenue directed to a specific project approved by a local referendum — passed the state House for the first time this year with a large bipartisan majority but was not taken up by the state Senate. Though some Republicans in that chamber have portrayed this legislation as another unwelcome tax increase, Fischer legislative liaison Sara Massey told the Democratic caucus they have made positive inroads on the issue since last session.
“We are having positive discussions with the Senate Republican caucus and the House Republican caucus on tightening up the enabling legislation so they feel a little better about how we pursue that,” said Massey.
Another familiar legislative priority is the passage of legislation that would help Metro Government deal with its high volume of vacant and abandoned properties. Two separate bills would expand the power of the Landbank Authority to efficiently acquire, manage and dispose of such properties, make it easier for Metro Government to condemn and acquire such properties, and allow Metro to restrict the sale of delinquent property taxes on them.
This will be the third attempt to pass such legislation, though Massey indicated they have made inroads with a legislator in northern Kentucky who has held up the bill, and Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, has agreed to join the effort for its passage.
Massey also said the administration will support legislation to allow the use of 12-hour shifts for Louisville Metro Police Department officers, which has the support of the local Fraternal Order of Police. She also indicated that Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, is finishing work on a bill that would provide incentives for investment in economically depressed areas like west Louisville, though it would likely also include such areas in eastern and rural Kentucky.
As for specific requests in the next biennium budget to be passed next year, Fischer’s priorities included $2 million for Louisville SummerWork’s youth job training program over the next two years, as well as $4.1 million for site preparation of the 24-acre FoodPort at 30th and West Market streets.
Massey also outlined road plan requests for Louisville, most of which already have been slotted for funding but will have to be finalized in the next session. These include:
- $16 million for the western extension of River Road, connecting it from its current cut-off point at Seventh Street downtown to the Northwestern Parkway in the Portland neighborhood.
- $8 million for redesigning the I-65 Jefferson/Brook Street exit ramp to create “a safer condition and facilitate one-way to two-way street conversions already scheduled for construction upon the completion of the Bridges Project.”
- $10 million for the NuLu streetscape.
- $2.2 million for design of the plan to provide a freight link between the Park Hill Industrial Corridor and I-65 and I-264 near the University of Louisville.
- $1.8 million for the extension Urton Lane to Bardstown Road, specifically the segment from Stone Lakes to Taylorsville Road.
- $4.8 million for the Dixie Highway “do-over.”
- $2.6 million for improving the safety of the Taylorsville Road intersection with the Parklands at South Pope Lick Road
The Kentucky General Assembly begins their 2016 session in the first week of January.