Manatee County Indigent Care One-Half Cent Sales Tax Referendum (June 2013)

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A Manatee County Indigent Care One-Half Cent Sales Tax Referendum ballot question was decisively defeated on the June 18, 2013, election ballot in Manatee County, which is in Florida.

If approved, this measure would have authorized the County of Manatee to increase sales taxes by 0.5% from 6.5% to 7% for ten years in order to fund health care services for Manatee County residents who are indigent or medically poor. It is estimated that this tax increase would raise about $23 million annually in revenue.[1]

This tax was part of County Administrator Ed Hunzeker's plan to replace $9 million of medical funding lost through a soon to be depleted public fund and about $14 million of property tax revenue.[2]

Election results

Sales Tax Referendum
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No23,71060.81%
Yes 15,280 39.18%
These results are from the Manatee County elections office.

Text of measure

Question on the ballot:

Shall Manatee County levy a countywide one-half cent sales surtax for a ten year period commencing January 1, 2014? The proceeds of the sales surtax shall be used to fund health care services for Manatee County residents, including elderly persons and children, who are indigent or medically poor. Such services shall include primary and preventative care by physicians, clinics, hospitals, mental health centers and alternative delivery sites in a cost effective manner.

FOR the one-half cents tax

AGAINST the one-half cents tax[1][3]

Support

Supporters

  • Health Manatee
  • Manatee County NAACP

Arguments

Supporters argue that this measure will allow for lower property taxes and continue to provide needed medical care to poor, under-insured and uninsured people in the county. Supporters also argue that this measure will spread the cost of health care for the poor over a broader base of taxpayers.[2][4]

The Manatee County NAACP supports this measure and Hunzeker's plan. In a press release published on Thursday, May 23rd, Susie Copeland, President of the Manatee NAACP, wrote, "Citizens cannot allow the politics of the situation to determine the need or responsibility to provide health care coverage to indigetn, underinsured or uninsured residents in Manatee County. the NAACP has been assured that the funds collected from the one-half cent sales tax will go into a special fund to cover health care costs ONLY."[5]

In the face of mistrust over whether property taxes would in fact decrease if this measure were approved, Hunzeker said, "There has been much discussion about whether property taxes would actually be reduced if the Healthcare Sales Surtax referendum is successful. This recommendation follows through and delivers on the promise to produce a viable budget with significantly lower property tax rates."[6]

Donors

The group called Healthy Manatee, according to their finance report, had raised $169,550 as of May 24 and spent $106,000 on the campaign in support of the half cent sales tax measure.[7]

The biggest donors to Healthy Manatee, accounting for about $75,000 of the reported $169,550, were:

  • USH of Delaware, the Pennsylvania-based parent company of Manatee Memorial Hospital
  • Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and
  • a political action committee affiliated with HCA, the parent of Blake Medical Center.

Moreover, the medical staff at Manatee Memorial hospital donated $10,000 and the medical staff of Blake Medical donated $5,000.[7]

Opposition

Opponents

  • Common Cents for Manatee
  • Manatee County Tea Party

Common Cents for Manatee, a group campaigning against this measure, reported only a single $5,000 contribution from Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics.[8]

Arguments

Some opponents argued that Hunzeker's plan was too vague and did not give specific guidelines or guarantees that the money from the tax would be spent responsibly and in a way that benefits county residents. They also said the ballot measure was too rushed and should be considered more carefully. Commissioner Michail Gallen said, “There's a precedent for the county taking care of our indigent, and I think it's clear that we're going to continue to do that, but I think we need to take more time and have more community involvement.”[9]

Other opponents, including the Manatee County Tea Party, were concerned that there is no guarantee that property taxes would be decreased if the measure passed and did not want the county to face the additional sales tax. They argued that they only have Hunzeker's word to go on, with no consensus from county commissioners. Commissioner Gallen also worried that voters were being mislead into thinking that property tax reduction is guaranteed on the approval of the 1/2 cent sales tax, and that they would vote based on that belief. Gallen said, “Our website also focuses on tax relief. I realize that we are more careful with our language - arguably we are implying tax relief however.”[10]

Path to the ballot

In 1984, Manatee County sold its public hospital and established a trust fund with the profit that has provided about $9 million annually for medical and mental care to the needy throughout the county. In 2015 money from this trust fund is expected to be depleted, leaving many health benefit services unfunded. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker proposed this 1/2 cent sales tax increase to fill the hole left by the depleted trust fund. In his recommendation, Hunzeker proposed that this would avoid necessary property tax increases and even allow for property tax reductions in the amount of nearly $14 million per year, while retaining funding for medical aid to the poor and needy.[2].

See also

External links

References