Voters should get to make some decisions

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Midway through the 2014 legislative session, members of the General Assembly still can't find a way to do one simple thing: Let the voters of Kentucky decide whether they want change that could generate more revenue for their communities and help ease the cash crises facing so many cities and counties throughout the state.

One proposal drawing growing support would give communities the option of voting in a temporary sales tax increase of up to 1 percent that would pay for specific projects, authorized by the voters. When a project is finished - say, a new firehouse, community center, library or park - the tax expires.

The other is the prospect of permitting expanded gambling in Kentucky, which polls show a growing number of Kentuckians support and proponents argue would capture hundreds of millions of dollars flowing out of Kentucky to casinos in bordering states.

Several bills are pending that would allow voters to decide whether they want to permit both proposals through changes to the Kentucky Constitution.

But the bills are twisting in the wind at the Capitol with lawmakers hesitant to act on measures that would simply let their constituents - the same people who elected them - decide for themselves what they want.

"Just let people vote on it!" said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, an early and enthusiastic proponent of the local sales tax option. "Why should this be so difficult?"

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and scores of city and county officials throughout Kentucky have joined Fischer in urging lawmakers to at least let the question on the ballot. If it passes, they argue, they could get funding for desperately needed projects and improvements to keep communities vibrant and attract prospective employers.

A majority of Kentuckians favor giving local communities the power to enact such temporary tax increases tied to specific projects, according to a recent Bluegrass Poll.

• This editorial originally appeared in The Courier-Journal.