Polls closed as Manatee voters decide sales tax, business incentives measures

jdeleon@bradenton.comJune 18, 2013 

The polls are closed. Now all is left is the counting of ballots to determine the outcome of two ballot questions in Tuesday's special election.

The two measures are:

• Whether to approve a half-cent tax to raise $23 million to pay for county health care programs, including services for the indigent. If residents vote to approve the tax hike, from 6.5 percent to 7 percent, the county projects it will raise $23 million to pay for county health care programs, including services for the indigent. The county now pays for it with a health care fund set to run out in 2015 and property taxes.

• Whether to grant county commissioners the authority to grant property tax exemptions to new and expanding businesses.

As of 1:30 p.m. roughly 24,000 had cast their votes, according to Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett.

Bennett said he expected turnout for the special election to top out at about 17 percent.

“I think it’s going very, very well,” Bennett said. “We have not had any issues at any of the precincts.”

Bennett also said the machines were not posing any problems and that the staff was extremely wonderful.

Over 17,000 absentee ballots have been counted so far, and nearly 2,400 ballots were cast during early voting.

At the Braden River Library precinct, some voters expressed confusion over the sales tax referendum.

Dominick Toppi, 82, said the issues were just too confusing so he voted no on both.

“If Obamacare is supposed to help pay for health care, why are they asking for more money?” Toppi said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Ian Davidson, 68, felt there was a lack of information on the issues.

He voted for the sales tax and against the business exemptions.

“We never received anything about it,” Davidson said. “I had to do some research on the web.”

In Lakewood Ranch, many voters seemed in favor of the sales tax increase.

Bonnie Elkins, a local artist, voted in favor of both issues. "Look, we have to pay taxes one way or another," Elkins said. "The snowbirds have to pay a little too. "

George McQuillen, retired Army, also voted in favor of both issues.

"I thought they made a good case for them or else I wouldn't have voted for them," McQuillen said.

Darlene Mason voted for the sales tax but against the exceptions for business. She felt people need to take care of the poor.

"I recognize that there are people that don't work," Mason said. "But it makes me sad that there is a lack of compassion in this country. "

Information: 941-741-3823, or visit votemanatee.com.

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