You Decide, Kentucky! seeks to amend Kentucky Constitution, enabling cities and counties to decide what revenue streams work for them
As Kentuckians settle into another election season, one coalition is feverishly working to empower citizens and local governments to decide at the ballot box what revenue streams are available to improve the quality of life in their communities — and the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) board recently voted to endorse its efforts.
You Decide, Kentucky! (YDK!) is a coalition of Kentuckians committed to changing the state’s constitution to allow local governments more flexibility to generate revenue streams. Kentucky’s current Constitution limits local governments to only taxing workers, property, and some business — leaving them to compete for a share of limited state government dollars available to improve their communities.
Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus co-chairs the organization’s board.
“As a born and raised Corbinite, for decades I have watched the infighting and animosity that occurs between cities and counties in southeast Kentucky,” Razmus wrote in a letter for YDK!’s year-end report. “It has hobbled and distracted us from focusing on our pressing need to rise above great challenges. We continue to fight for a pitiful little piece of revenue pie rather than creating a bigger and better one.”
YDK! seeks to revise Section 181 of Kentucky’s Constitution to give the state legislature new authority to restructure the local tax code and provide all cities and counties with expanded and less burdensome options to generate revenue. The legislature can propose a constitutional amendment during any legislative session, and the people of Kentucky can vote on the amendment during a November general election that falls on an even-numbered year. As such, YDK! is focusing its efforts on the November 2024 general election.
The idea for YDK! was born from a 2020 Leadership Louisville Fellows class, and has expanded from a start-up to a statewide engagement operation. YDK!’s board of directors includes 15 members and its leadership has raised in excess of a half million dollars to perform research and create strategic and targeted messaging that will help YDK! educate voters and legislators about the need for this constitutional revision.
SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said revenue diversification is desperately needed at the local level so that communities can take charge of their own destinies. Local taxing options would have a significant positive impact on economic development efforts, Girdler said. SPEDA’s board endorsed YDK!’s efforts in hopes that other economic development organizations will come on board.
“You Decide, Kentucky! is gaining significant momentum and we felt the time was right to get behind this effort,” Girdler said. “Communities need options to diversify their revenue streams in ways that work best for them. What works in Somerset might not work in Lexington or Louisville, but the beauty of this initiative is that it gives control back to those communities to decide for themselves. SPEDA is proud to endorse this effort and wishes You Decide, Kentucky! the best of luck as it pushes for a constitutional amendment vote in November 2024.”