MANATEE -- A group campaigning in favor of a proposed increase in Manatee County's sales tax rate to pay for health care has spent almost $106,000 on its campaign leading up to a June 18 election, according to a finance report filed this week with the county elections office.
Most of the $169,550 the group had raised as of May 24 was collected in the form of contributions from local hospitals, physicians and others in the health care industry.
A group opposed to the proposed sales tax hike, Common Cents for Manatee, has not filed a finance report, according to the Florida Division of Elections website. As an "electioneering communications organization" registered with the state, Common Cents is not required to file a campaign finance report until July 10, according to the Division of Elections website.
The biggest donors to Healthy Manatee were USH of Delaware, the Pennsylvania-based parent company of Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, and a political action committee affiliated with HCA, the parent of Blake Medical Center. They have each donated a total of $75,000, according to the filing.
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Additionally, the "medical staff" at Manatee Memorial donated $10,000, and the "medical staff" at Blake Medical donated $5,000.
Several physicians made individual donations, as did Kevin Dilallo, chief executive officer at Manatee Memorial.
Healthy Manatee has been campaigning for voter approval of a measure that would raise the sales tax rate in Manatee County by a half-cent. Officials estimate the surtax would raise $23 million for health care, including more than $9 million paid to local hospitals and other providers for indigent health care.
Healthy Manatee also has touted that raising the sales tax would allow the county to cut property taxes. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker's proposed budget calls for the tax switch, but the county commission, which would have the final say, has not made any promises.
Of the money spent by Manatee, about $100,000 has been paid to The Nolan Group, a Bradenton-based political consulting firm.