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Hamilton County Sales Tax Petition Falls Short

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Bill Rinehart
/
WVXU

A petition drive challenging a Hamilton County sales tax will fall short of the signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. The effort's chair, Andy Black, says they needed 33,369 signatures, but won't reach the goal by the Thursday deadline.

The quarter-cent sales tax was approved by county commissioners to balance next year's budget. Black, who is a Republican candidate for commission, says in a statement, "We generated a conversation that has posed a lot of critical questions for our county. Questions that we will continue to push until we get answers from the commissioners. They have yet to explain why they implemented a $40 million tax when they are trying to fill a $20 million budget hole — where is the other $20 million going? We all deserve to know."

At a commission meeting in September, County Administrator Jeff Aluotto said his proposal would only collect a half year of revenue for 2020, or "roughly $20 million, which will be sufficient to address the defined structural deficit next year," he told commissioners.

The new sales tax will take effect April 1, as another quarter-cent sales tax expires. That one was approved by voters to fund the renovation and rehabilitation of Union Terminal. Hamilton County's sales tax will remain at 7%. There is no sunset provision for the new sales tax.

A proposed sales tax hike in 2018 was removed over the threat of a lawsuit. That hike also faced a possible referendum. Members of the Hamilton County Republican Party and supporters gathered more than 38,000 signatures, and said many had been declared valid, before commissioners rescinded the tax plan.