Sarasota Not Alone in Willingness To Tax Selves

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY JAN 30, 2019

Sarasota voters in November supported taxing themselves to fund the Legacy Trail, and they weren’t alone. Susan McManus, a retired University of South Florida political science professor, notes that Florida voters weighed in on 19 different tax referenda in 2018, and every one of them passed.

McManus spoke to business leaders gathered at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota on Tuesday, where she spoke about election results at a luncheon for the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County.

“In some wealthy places, citizen-led campaigns showed people want for local government to spend on recreational land,” she said, something that explains the passage of the Legacy Trail referendum in particular.

But in other parts of the state, voters also supported measures to help pay for affordable housing, better road infrastructure and efforts to improve workforce development.

In some areas, local leaders fearful of the next economic downturn felt now might be the last chance to convince voters to approve new taxes. That way, revenue will be available when a crash comes.

“And if the economy does sour,” she said, “these 19 communities will look pretty smart.”

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, also spoke at the event, where he remained bullish about job growth in Florida. The new chairman of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, Gruters this year plans to push legislation that eliminates an expiration date for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, which could eliminate future political fights similar to the one that occurred in 2017 over incentives and marketing expenditures.

He also praised EDC leaders and State College of Florida leadership for landing a $3 million coding grant. “The students here owe you a great deal of gratitude,” he said.

How does this all translate to voters appetite for taxes? While voters favor certain spending if justified, voters also passed statewide measures that controlled tax rates.

“The referenda show voters want more local control,” McManus said.

Photo by Jacob Ogles: Susan McManus speaks to business leaders at EDC luncheon.

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