Manatee County voters to decide on tax breaks for job creators

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BRADENTON - Manatee County voters are ready to let their voices be heard. The county’s special election is tomorrow, and voters will decide on two important ballot issues -- both have to do with taxes.

The first is a half-cent sales tax that would pay for indigent health care services. The second would give new and expanding companies who create jobs a tax break. Many are calling ad valorem referendum on the ballet the "new jobs now" measure, and the debate surrounding it has many up in arms.

"We have a seaport, we have an international airport, we have a strong workforce." Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation chair Sharon Hillstrom says the county has a lot to offer a company looking to relocate. But there is one thing missing from the list: an ad valorem tax exemption policy.

Hillstrom say it has left Manatee County at a disadvantage when trying to recruit new companies. "We want to be on an even playing field, and ad velorum tax abatement is an attractive incentive you can offer to a company looking to relocate to an area or to companies that are already here."

But a referendum on the June 18th ballot will address the issue. And if passed, the ad valorem tax exemption would give companies who meet certain requirements -- like creating jobs -- a tax break.

“These are only for taxes levied by the county, so school taxes and other taxes are not impacted."

But property taxes on a facility and equipment are impacted, which has some opposing the idea.

"It’s totally unfair and it’s not what the free enterprise system is based on. It’s essentially central planning by the county commission," says Steve Vernon, President of

Tea Party Manatee County. He says the referendum goes against the free market belief. "If you want to bring more business to your county, you can do it in much freer ways; essentially reduce taxes, simplify regulation."

In addition, Vernon says the measure will put companies currently doing business in the area at a disadvantage. "You’re punishing them by giving their competition a benefit and a tax exemption, which is essentially free money."

But supporters of the measure say existing companies wanting to expand can take advantage of the measure. And without tax exemption, Manatee County will have a tough time creating jobs.

"You have no idea how many companies or opportunities we may have missed because we don’t have this program. Often times if you don’t have a particular incentive, you’re just off the list. You don’t even get the opportunity to have a conversation."

Polls will open at 7am sharp Tuesday morning, and will close at 7pm.