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Murray City Council Passes Controversial Payroll Tax, Repeals City Stickers

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

After months of heated debate, the Murray City Council passed the controversial payroll tax ordinance Thursday night. 

The one-percent payroll tax passed its second reading six-to-four. Council members Pat Scott and Burton Young, who have opposed the tax, were absent from the meeting.

The ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2018. The tax is "one-percent on gross earnings of an employee working and rendering services to an employer or business entity for compensation within the City of Murray."

  • Yes: Billington, Bohannon, Bolin, Miller, Pittman, Shoemaker
  • No: Bell, Cherry, Hudspeth, Roberts
  • Absent: Young, Scott

The council also passed the second reading of an ordinance repealing city stickers, effective June 1, 2018. The sticker was repealed on a 7-3 vote. Council member Hudspeth voted in favor.
The payroll tax has met fierce opposition from many community members and organizations. Opponents say the tax places a burden on workers. Supporters say the money will improve police pay, roads and park services.

Murray residents Jennifer Lynn and Orville Herndon voiced opposition to the payroll tax during the public comment period. Lynn presented poverty statistics and outlined an increased burden on low-wage workers, equating as an example an individual paying a payroll tax of $200, effectively quadrupling the $50 city sticker cost. She said she is on a committee petitioning the measure to be placed on an election ballot. Herndon held up a plastic bag containing an SD card he says he purchased for $12 as an example of potential identity theft vulnerability with worker information. Following up with Lynn, she said she still plans on petitioning for a ballot measure. She also said she plans to run for city council.

Council member Jeremy Bell (who opposed the tax) said people are going to demand accountability with regards to the additional revenue. "I'm not even sure how we're going to implement it," he said, but added that if the committee report identified an increase in police pay then people are going to want to see the increase in police pay. 

Council member Danny Hudspeth (who opposed the tax) has been outspoken in his opposition in previous metings and reiterated his concern for workers, particularly low-income individuals. 

Council member Linda Cherry (who opposed the tax) said she felt the measure was "rushed" and felt "pressured" into voting without enough discussion.

Concluding the meeting, Mayor Jack Rose noted that the ordinance had been discussed since last October.

Many cities in Kentucky already have a payroll tax.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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