Martin County commissioners weigh tax proposals in Legislature

Published 10:21 pm Friday, April 27, 2007

By Staff
Manager: Bills could affect upcoming budget
Staff Writer
WILLIAMSTON — Though budget numbers are still coming in, Martin County commissioners met Wednesday night to discuss proposed state legislation that could affect the county’s upcoming budget.
Medicaid, and alleviating its strain on county budgets, is the focus of much of that legislation. Five bills have been introduced that would either cap, phase out completely or immediately eliminate Medicaid costs for counties, Overman said.
Martin County’s Medicaid costs are capped at their 2005-2006 fiscal-year levels — about $2.25 million.
The upcoming budget, which takes effect July 1, will be prepared as if no Medicaid relief were coming from the state, and it will be reworked when and if any relief arrives, he said.
Commissioner Mort Hurst had another idea for helping counties with Medicaid cost.
With Medicaid costs rising, many eastern counties are searching for revenue sources to supplement revenue generated by property taxes. Two sources Martin County discussed are a local one-cent sales tax that would be added to existing sales taxes and a 1-percent property-transfer tax. Before the Legislature are bills that would give counties the authority to levy both, and only then if approved by way of a referendum.
Overman said the sales tax, if it remains a point-of-origin tax, would be the “best scenario for Martin County” and would bring in about $1.5 million.
House Bill 874 has been introduced for that purpose. If passed, it would authorize the county to levy a local one-cent sales tax for public-school capital outlay and for Martin Community College. But commissioners made it clear that support for the bills should only be expressed if tax revenue is distributed on a point-of-origin basis, which means the tax revenue would stay in the county where it is collected.