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Readers Express Contempt for Healthcare Sales Tax


BRADENTON -- Reader comments regarding the upcoming special election on a half-cent sales tax to fund county healthcare programs have shown overwhelming disdain for both the plan and the way it is being presented. Here's a sampling of some of the more insightful responses we've received to recent coverage of the issue. 

Tropicana (owned by Pepsi) has real property in Manatee County with a taxable value of $373 million. Tropicana's property tax bill will drop hundreds of thousands of dollars if the sales tax increase is approved by the voters.

A sales tax increase and a property tax decrease is a huge benefit for Tropicana. Tropicana purchases very few things in Manatee County that includes a sales tax. Thus Tropicana saves hundreds of thousands in property taxes and pays only a few more dollars in sales taxes.

We need to ask the Commissioners why they are against the renters, residents, voters, and taxpayers in this county.

We need to ask the Commissioners why they are giving the huge out-of-state corporations a multi-million property tax break.

Another false claim that needs to be exposed is that tourists and visitors will pay up to 33% of the sales tax.

Here is why:

1. If a 1/2 cent sales tax increase generates $23 million, then the total taxable sales in Manatee County is $4.6 Billion.

2. If tourists and visitors pay 33% of the sales tax, then the total taxable sales to tourists and visitors is over $1.5 Billion.

3. But the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and the Visitors Bureau states the economic impact from tourists and visitors is around $500 million. (Economic impact is greater than taxable sales)

- Posted by Larry Rued

For fiscal year 2012, Alan Miller, chairman and CEO of King of Prussia, Pa.-based Universal Health Services, recorded total compensation of $11.7 million, a 6.7 percent drop from last year's total, according to a proxy disclosure filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In 2011, Mr. Miller earned $12.5 million. For 2012, his base salary increased marginally to $1.43 million, while his stock awards and options totaled more than $8.32 million. Mr. Miller's bonuses and incentives for 2012 were down more than 85 percent compared with 2011, totaling $385,575. He also received almost $1.5 million in "other" compensation, which included $11,497 for county club dues, $3,870 for maintenance to his personal home and $476 for sporting event tickets.

UHS CFO Steve Filton earned $1.4 million in 2012, down from $1.8 million in 2011. His base salary increased to $507,519, but like Mr. Miller, his incentives were also down significantly.

Marvin Pember, UHS' senior vice president and president of the acute-care division, had the second-highest compensation package in the company, after Mr. Miller. In 2012, he made $2.73 million, which included a $575,022 base salary and a $1 million cash bonus, paid in August, for his one-year anniversary with UHS. Mr. Pember previously was CFO of Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.

Marc Miller, president of UHS and son of Alan Miller, also saw lower compensation in 2012. His total pay was $1.88 million, compared with $2.41 million the year prior.

PS: UHS owns Manatee Memorial and poor Mr. Miller's salary dropped from $12.5 million to $11.7 million. Taxpayers better hurry and give MMH a taxpayers' grant to raise his salary back up.

- Posted by Jack Starost

Politicians always seem to want a tax that favors the rich & sticks it to the average middle class working stiffs. I don't mind helping those without healthcare, but what was the rush in having this special election. The money spent for this early election could have been spent in more beneficial ways. We could have waited till 2014 to decide this.

- Posted by William E. Moore

I don't understand why the homeowners should be the only ones to pay for this. Let everyone pay for it equally. The homeowners are not the indigents getting free healthcare. We pay for our own. So to make only homeowners pay for them too is not fair.

- Leo Stillmock

I'm with Mr. Stillmock. We are going to pay this tax no matter what, it depends if it is just property owners or everyone. The fair way is for everyone to pay.

- Ron Torkelson

These are the very concerns that many of us have about the false advertising being done by Healthy Manatee. There is no promise of a property tax reduction in this June 18th referendum. Mr. Hunzeker needs to state the true fact that his indigent health care fund is a 7.7% increase in the sales tax.

- Sara Cohen

The failure of the BOCC to clarify the misleading impression that has been left with the voters is very troubling. Especially in light of prior promises on the use of sales tax surcharges that simply didn't materialize.

Giving taxpayer monies to a private company is also troubling. When Universal Health Services (UHS) bought Manatee Memorial Hospital, they assumed all existing liabilities of such. Funding indigent care is not unique to Manatee Memorial Hospital.

To put this $24 million in perspective, in 2012 UHS had $815 million in cash flow from operations. They paid their top 5 executives $20 million in total compensation.

The taxpayers should not be subsidizing their operations.

- Posted by Mike Eiffert

It is absolutely disgraceful that this county is permitting a PAC to operate with such disdain for truthful statements! Healthy Manatee is continuing to market the sales tax referendum as PROPERTY TAX RELIEF ... and though the BoCC may not have the authority to issue a "cease & desist" order, it could offer a blunt statement condemning the deceptive nature of this PAC.

As it stands, only a minority on the Board are willing to make such a statement - which tells the public that the others are willing to support & condone LYING to the public in order to gain the vote.

Mrs. Whitmore: your indignation is better directed at Healthy Manatee as they are the ones that put your husband's name on their website as a supporter. You attack an article that relays the fact that he is a supporter instead of demanding Healthy Manatee retract his name & issue an apology? Put your anger to work and make a public statement that you and he do NOT support the PAC rather than lash out at a reporter that provides facts.

As it stands, we have a PAC, Healthy Manatee, supported by Tom Nolan of the Committee for Open Democracy (one just has to look at the Healthy Manatee website to see the depth of support), intentionally, willfully, and stridently DECEIVING the public into thinking that the sales tax referendum is guaranteeing property tax relief.

If they will blatantly lying to get your vote - what else are they lying about? And why won't all of the Commissioners take a stand condemning such deceptive behavior?

- Posted by James Ferguson

The Healthy Manatee fraudulent mailing is simple.

It says: vote for the Half-Penny because it will reduce county property taxes in the Cities by 26% and in the unincorporated area by 13%. Why is it a big lie?

The pamphlet distributed by Ed Hunzeker on the 26/13 Plan for Property tax Reductions lists the ½ cent tax as only a fraction of his plan. In fact, according to his figures the ½ cent tax would only be about 26% of the reduction plan, where Healthy Manatee tells the voters the tax and it alone are going to do all the reductions.

The rest of Ed Hunzeker's plan is highly controversial and dubious at the best.

A. He recommends reducing the county millage for city residents 1.2054 ($28 million) being that portion of the Sheriff's budget for patrol not provided to the cities. What he does not explain is how is the Sheriff going to handle $28 million dollars from his current budget when he is already asking for an increase?

B. The second part of the 26/13 Ed Hunzeker property tax reductions is for the county to impose a utility franchise fee (Florida Power and Light) amounting to 5.9 % of our electric bill. That would reduce the county millage by 0.9508.

In other words our utility bill would go up 5.9% and property tax millage down 0.9508. Who would benefit the most? Why of course FPL, who is the biggest property owner in the county, then MMH, Tropicana, Blake Hosp., etc., etc.

The increase in our utility bill will not be an IRS tax deduction but the property taxes are.
It's a win-win for big property owners and a lose-lose for the rest of us.

- Posted by Jack Starost


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