BRADENTON -- Manatee County voters soundly rejected a proposal to implement a half-cent sales tax in order to maintain current healthcare spending past 2015. The measure failed 61-39 percent. Meanwhile, a referendum on allowing the county to offer property tax abatements to new or expanding businesses passed 52.5 to 47.5 percent.
Even though the election was held in June of an off-year cycle, turnout was slightly higher than the 15 percent that was expected with around 39,000 voters participating. The county had hoped to continue funding payments to hospitals and doctors along with other indigent care programs at current levels, even though the corpus which currently supports the spending is set to expire by 2015.
The county, which is under no obligation to make such payments to hospitals after the corpus established by its sale of Manatee Memorial hospital is depleted, will now have to consider whether to stop paying the hospitals, raise taxes on property owners to continue current spending, or cut spending to non-hospital based programs.
The property tax abatements, which were promoted by the EDC (who would use them to lure businesses to Manatee County) were heavily campaigned for with funding provided by the EDC
and without an opposition campaign. While the issue was framed by supporters as a surefire way to create jobs, Manatee County already has an impressive portfolio of incentives, which provide model accountability.