Mannix About Manatee: Voters send message loud and clear

June 19, 2013 

Dead on arrival.

Such was the resounding fate of the proposed half-cent sales tax increase to pay for indigent health care in Tuesday's referendum.

DOA.

No surprise.

That the tax exemption for new businesses and new jobs -- Tuesday's second ballot item -- did get passed was somewhat of a surprise.

But not the other.

The margin of defeat spoke volumes.

Almost 61 percent (23,710) against, and 39.2 percent (15,280) in favor with all precincts reporting Tuesday night along with early and absentee votes.

That's an emphatic rejection, one that resonates on several levels.

First, it was a tax.

No matter how proponents tried to sugarcoat it, that word is anathema around here.

Second, this overwhelming vote was like a shot across the bow of the Manatee County Commission and the muddled message it sent about the primary issue and the lack of public dialogue.

It should've been about primary care for the indigent and working poor.

Instead, hijacked by outside proxies and corporate cash, it ended up being about property tax cuts, which was never on the actual ballot.

That it was understood to be part of county Administrator Ed Hunzeker's budget plans, and incumbent on the commission to pass if the sales tax passed, was

not good enough.

Without seeing it in black and white on that ballot, voters simply did not believe it.

They weren't going to take the county commission at its word.

Voters don't trust the county commissioners.

They're politicians.

Furthermore, after all the aggravating robocalls and incessant mailers bombarded the community over the last few weeks, people were fed up with the whole business.

They wanted this referendum over.

If anything, the last-minute frenzy turned voters who might've been on the fence against the proposed sales tax.

Or turned them away from the polls, period.

If there is an efficient way to run a campaign on a referendum, this was not it.

Tuesday's result sent that message loud and clear.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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