Friday, June 14, 2013

Keeping track of who's running campaigns in June 18 special election

A variety of political committees have taken the lead in promoting their respective messages about two referendum questions on the June 18 special election ballot in Manatee County.

Here's a rundown of who they are:

Healthy Manatee

Healthy Manatee, chaired by former county commissioner Pat Glass, has taken the lead in the campaign to win voter approval for a half-cent increase in the sales tax to fund health care programs, including services for the indigent.

Despite the group's name, the main thrust of its campaign is the prospect of a higher sales tax meaning a corresponding drop in the property tax rate for county residents. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has made such a switch part of his proposed 2013-14 county budget, but property tax relief is not part of the ballot question.

As of May 24, Healthy Manatee had raised almost $170,000 in contribution -- mainly from local hospitals and others in the health care industry -- and spent almost $106,000 on its campaign, according to finance reports filed with the county elections office.

A bulk of the spending had gone to The Nolan Group, a Bradenton political consulting firm, to pay for mailers and other materials.

Committee for Community Leadership

You may have received a automated telephone call from Committee for Community Leadership promoting the sales tax proposal.

Since 2012, when the Palmetto-based "electioneering communications organization" was formed, CCL has collected 11 individual donations totaling more than $95,000, according to finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections. It has spent an almost equal amount.

The donors include UHS of Delaware Inc., the parent company of Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, $2,000; and Blake Medical Center, two donations totaling $7,000.

Also donating $5,000 each were Schroeder Manatee Ranch, developer of Lakewood Ranch; and Benderson Development, which owns several shopping centers in the region.

More than $46,000 in donations came from Peter S. Rummell, a Jacksonville real estate investor and chairman of the Urban Land Institute; and another $20,000 came from the Jacksonville Civic Council, whose "mission is to create a clear vision for the city of Jacksonville.," according to its website.

Manatee Against Taxation / Common Cents for Manatee

Manatee Against Taxation -- which lists its base as Venice, in Sarasota County --  has taken the lead in opposing the sales tax hike, largely with fliers that have flooded local mailboxes in recent weeks.

The group registered May 30 as a "political action committee," and as yet has not filed financial disclosure reports with the Florida Division of Elections, according to the agency's website.

The group's treasurer is Eric Robinson, who also is listed in documents as the registered agent for Common Cents for Manatee, which also opposes the sales tax hike.

Common Cents, which is registered with the state as an "electioneering communications organization," also has not filed reports detailing contributions and expenditures.

Committee for New Jobs Now

Committee for New Jobs Now is promoting approval of a second ballot measure that would allow the county to provide property tax breaks for new and existing businesses that create new jobs in the county.

Between Jan. 1 and May 24, the Lakewood Ranch-based group had raised more than $78,000 in contributions, and spent more than $46,000. The group's treasurer is Neil Spirtas, an executive with the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce.

Of the money raised, $75,000 had come from the Bradenton Area Economic Development Council, according to a finance report filed with the county elections office.

Citizens for Good Government

On June 7, Citizens for Good Government registered with the county elections office to oppose the "sales tax referendum and economic development ad valorem tax exemption."

The chairman of the group is Steve Vernon, who also president of Tea Party Manatee.

The group has not filed any reports detailing contributions and expenditures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Manatee County Democrats endorse sales tax hike to pay for health care (UPDATED)

Update below.

The Manatee County Democratic Party is endorsing the proposed increase in the sales tax rate to pay for county government's health care programs, including spending for the indigent. Manatee voters will decide on the proposal in a June 18 special election.

Here is the party's news release, issued late Wednesday:
Inspired primarily by state Republicans’ rejection of federal Medicaid funds, the Democratic Party of Manatee County has officially endorsed the half-penny sales tax to fund health care for the working poor. 
Voters will decide June 18, in a special referendum, whether to approve the half-penny. 
 “It’s a moral issue,” said Patricia Benson, chairperson of the Democratic Party of Manatee County. “We are the ‘caring’ party, and we need to care for those who cannot take care of themselves. We need to care for those who do not have the resources or support of family that would enable them to have health insurance.” 
Benson said the Executive Committee voted this weekend to formalize its support for the half-penny after watching the Republican-controlled Florida State Legislature reject Medicaid from the federal government under the Affordable Care Act. The Legislature’s decision leaves an estimated 1 million Florida residents uninsured who would have received coverage through the extension of Medicaid. 
“Our question is, who will take care of the indigent and working poor in Manatee County?” she said. “As for those who say the half-penny will hit the poor the hardest, that’s just not true. For the most part, the tourists and others who can afford to spend lots of money will be paying this extra half-cent. Food and medicine will not be taxed.” 
The half-penny will raise $23 million annually to fund health care for Manatee County’s working poor. County officials plan to use the proceeds to replace property tax revenue as the main source of funding for indigent health care. The half-penny would enable property owners to receive a projected property tax reduction of 13 to 25 percent.

UPDATED, 4 p.m. EDT -

The Healthy Manatee political committee, which is leading the campaign for the sales tax hike, says the Democratic Party is the latest important endorsement for the measure.

Other endorsements touted in a news release issued Thursday include those from resort owner David Teitelbaum; downtown Bradenton booster Jaymie Carter; the Manatee County Medical Society; and the Holmes Beach City Commission.

Carter said the surtax will allow the county to lower its property tax rate -- something County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has offered as part of his proposed 2013-14 budget. (The county commission will have the final say.

 Teitelbaum said the surtax would represent "good fiscal planning" and give the county a way to head off what would be a "major deficit" in health care funding.

“People are starting to recognize the broad based issues that are involved here,” said former Manatee County commissioner Pat Glass, the chair of Healthy Manatee. “They realize the half-penny provides an important economic benefit in addition to a health care benefit. It’s about making our community a healthier environment all the way around.”