The Health Tax and Where it Stands

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It will be up to Leon County voters to decide whether to raise their sales tax by a half cent to one of the highest sales taxes in the state at eight percent. If approved, the county says the tax would raise more than $18 million a year to provide last resort health care to about 9,000 uninsured residents.

Several organizations and groups have endorsed the tax and Monday morning. Tallahassee City Commissioners Allan Katz and Andrew Gillum gave their support.

Allan Katz said, "I think that ultimately that there's ways we could possibly take this plan and tweak it, make it a little better. The reality is this is the source of the money and this is the way I believe we should go forward."

Commissioner Andrew Gillum added, "Our federal government is slow to take action and we can't sit around and wait for them to do so. We've got to make a decision locally. This is not a perfect solution, but it is a solution and a move in the right direction."

Although the tax is a county issue, support among the Tallahassee City Commission is not unanimous. Mayor John Marks says he's undecided and Commissioner Mark Mustian says he's not supporting it. We did not hear back from Commissioner Debbie Lightsey by airtime. Commissioner Mustian said he's not opposed to providing health care to the uninsured, he's just troubled by the county's proposed plan.

He said, "I'm afraid that we're getting into something the County doesn't really have a lot of expertise or knowledge on. The unfortunate thing is, I think we may spend a whole ton of money and only accomplish a little bit when we could have accomplished a lot."

Among county commissioners, Bill Proctor, Robert Rackleff, and Cliff Thaell say they are supporting the tax and plan. However, Ed Depuy and outgoing Commissioner Tony Grippa are not, and Jane Sauls says she's undecided. We have not heard back from outgoing Commissioner Dan Winchester or John Dailey, set to take his place late November.

Bryan Desloge and Will Messer, both vying for Tony Grippa's seat, have said they do not support the tax and neither does Frank Mayernick, hoping to take over Rackleff's seat.
The county contends it's a good plan and admits it won't cover everyone in need. It's estimated there are as many as 31,000 uninsured Leon County residents.

Parwez Alam, Leon County Administrator, said, "There's only so many dollars to serve the most people we can and the people who are really in the worst possible situation."

The county's proposed plan is aimed towards the so-called "working poor" and intended as a last resort. Those who would qualify are men and women between the ages of 18 and 64, with a household income falling below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, and cannot qualify for any other type of medical coverage.

City and county leaders may have their opinions, but the decision is ultimately in the hands of Leon County voters. The fate of the tax to be determined on the night of November 7.