The two referendums on the June 18 ballot are both supported by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. As chairman of the Chamber, which has more than 2,000 businesses as members representing 72,000 employees, I encourage Manatee County voters to do their research. I think that if you do, you, too, will be voting "yes" on both issues.
The half cent for health care services, certainly the most complex of the two referendums, is necessary to fill a looming budget shortfall. It also allows for property tax relief, as evidenced by the proposed county budget presented recently.
Funding critical health care services with a sales tax spreads the burden across a much larger pool, including approximately one-third paid for by visitors to the area.
The largest portion of proposed sales-tax-covered services are mandatory expenditures (Medicaid match and jail health care costs), giving the county commission no choice except on the question of how to pay.
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And if federal health care reform completely solves our local problem in the next few years - a huge and improbable "if" - then commissioners may stop collecting the half cent by a simple majority vote.
Add to these points the fact that this sales tax sunsets in 10 years and includes the formation of a citizens advisory board, that means there are safeguards in place to ensure Manatee County continues to look at this challenge and determine if our course is the right one.
The Chamber supports the half cent as a more equitable way to fund health care services and compensate providers for caring for our indigent population.
The Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Abatement (EDATE) issue will provide a new economic development tool in attracting new businesses to Manatee County and helping our existing businesses expand.
This would give the commission the discretion to offer property tax abatement depending on the project. It does not mean that every company that relocates or expands will be offered this incentive. This is about jobs, higher wages and capital investment for our community.
So please, educate yourself and be sure to exercise your right to vote! The Chamber encourages you to vote "YES" on both referendums.
Tom Seguin, Chairman, Manatee Chamber of Commerce