BRADENTON – On Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission voted to defer a vote on whether to fund a $200,000 study on possible indigent health care strategies until their June 17 meeting. The county administration was asking the board to spend the money from what remains of the quickly dwindling corpus that currently funds such care, on a study that would be performed by USF through the Chamber of Commerce.
Much like the indigent care sales tax referendum, which failed last June, public comments generally fell in favor of the plan when they were from stakeholders, and in opposition to it when they were from the public at large.
Professor John P Petrila, J.D., LL.M, from the University of South Florida, attempted to dismiss any idea that this was a repeat performance of last year's referendum. Petrila attempted to convince the board that there would also be a well informed public; unlike what many claimed was the case when citizens rejected the endeavor last June.
"I have no preconceived notion to what the county should do," said Petrila. "We will speak to as many people as possible, make it as specific as possible, with as much detail as we can possibly give you."
Arguments were made on both sides as to who -- stakeholders, or non-stakeholders -- should be paying the cost of the study. Nearly all of the commissioners took their turn at stating the county's fiscal condition as being in dire straits. "The budget doesn't have anything in it anyway," said Commissioner Baugh who was among the most vehemently opposed members of the board.
Commissioner Bustle, who tends to be the biggest advocate for the administration, was the primary proponent of the measure, expressing no reservation whatsoever about spending the funding as proposed. Commissioner Chappie mostly seemed to lend his support, if not as enthusiastically.
The rest of the board expressed much discomfort in light of the failed effort to pass a half-cent sales tax option last year.
Commissioner DiSabatino said, "I tried to put last year's attempt off until this August …," adding, "If you want a unanimous decision now, with this, I am angry."
Commissioner Gallen, who was perhaps the most vocal critic of the way the county handled the referendum, also expressed strong concerns about moving forward.
Bob Bartz, President of the Manatee Chamber-of-Commerence, said, "If we don't have some kind of consensus, this will be undermined from day one -- a waste of time."
Once it was clear that the unanimous vote Commission Chair Bustle had also stressed wasn't going to be there, Commissioner DiSabatino made the motion to bring it back after the public is better informed. The motion was approved unanimously to defer the vote until the June 17 meeting.
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