Half cent sale tax rally

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Bradenton---A special election is underway in Manatee County--and one item is causing controversy.  It involves a tax to pay health care for the poor.

The county currently pays about 9 million dollars a year to cover those costs, but come 2015 the fund used to pay that bill will be dry.

About one hundred people coming together to fight what they say is misinformation about the half cent sales tax referendum on the June 18th ballot.

"Its all lies and fear tactics.. the opposition is trying to distract the voter and scare the voter," said Jonathan Fleece local attorney and supporter of the measure.

Many Manatee County residents received a mailer that implies the half cent sale tax will be used for abortions.  There have also been several anti sales tax commercials.

"They say this will hurt the school system. There's nothing in this referendum that will interfere with that and then there's this issue of roads that this will impact the county's ability to build roads and it certainly doesn't, said Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.  "The county has a long standing practice that new growth pays for it's self and new growth pays for its self through transportation impact fees," added Hunzeker.

County officials proposed the half cent tax on all items under $5,000 after realizing the fund that currently pays for indigent health care had run dry. 

"We're required by state statute to fund jail medical, we cant walk away from funding the Medicaid match so we have to find away to pay for those things," said Hunzeker.

But according to state statute their are only two options to fund those measures sales tax or property tax.

"If we don't pass the sales tax property taxes may increase in Manatee county, which  hurts real estate it hurts business its very hard and damaging to the community," Fleece.

If passed, the sales tax would generate $23 million which supporters say will not just compensate for the empty health care fund but also reduce the amount of property taxes currently spent on indigent health care.

"We get a double benefit we reduce property taxes and the benefit is a healthier manatee and a strong health care system what more could the voters wants," said Fleece.

Still -- not every one agrees with the measure

"I don't think they need any more in the sales tax and to the individual who has to work constantly I think its just too much," said Ed a Manatee County voter.