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.”