Every time you buy weed in Santa Cruz, your tax dollars are invested in Santa Cruz’s youth. A new ballot measure is seeking to increase that use of tax dollars.
Measure A, if passed, would designate more tax revenue toward the Santa Cruz Children’s Fund. In 2020, the fund’s expenditures included scholarships for low-income families and childcare and family care providers, as well as educational programs for elementary students who fell behind in school.
First established by the City Council in 2017, the Children’s Fund has been backed solely by tax revenue from cannabis sales. When the fund was first created, 12.5 percent of the Cannabis Business Tax revenue was designated for it. Measure A seeks to increase that allocated revenue to 20 percent. The measure will not increase any taxes on cannabis.
“We can make a difference in these extra sets of investments,” said Council Member Martine Watkins, a supporter of the measure. “My vision is that every kid in this community will be supported and families will feel comfortable and nurtured and they’ll be able to stay and thrive here. I don’t think that should be just who can afford it, it needs to be for all.”
First pushed by Watkins, and co-sponsored by Council Members Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Renee Golder, a resolution to get the measure on the ballot was unanimously approved by the City Council in June 2021. Now its fate lies in the hands of the voters.
City Attorney Tony Condotti said in an analysis on the ballot voter guide that passage of the measure would result in an estimated increase from around $212,000 to approximately $340,000 in revenue allocated to the Children’s Fund for Fiscal Year 2022. Measure A has no filed opponents on the ballot guide and will need a simple majority to pass.
Watkins said if an increased allocation of tax revenue toward the fund were approved by City Council through an ordinance, the policy could be repealed through an ordinance by a future council. Legislating through the ballot box would not encounter this worry.
The measure was endorsed by First 5 Santa Cruz County, a public commission that funds services for children and families through cigarette taxes.
“Our fundamental belief is that we have to grow. We have to bring more resources to the table, and there’s nowhere you shouldn’t be looking,” said Executive Director David Brody. “Having local children’s funds that help fill gaps where federal dollars fall short is critically important to the well-being of all our kids and families in Santa Cruz County.”
Kalantari-Johnson also anticipates the tax revenue from cannabis increasing over the years, alluding to the fact that the measure’s passage could add a significant amount of money toward child and youth services for years to come.
“Whether you’re a mom or a dad, every single one of us has a role to play in the well-being of children in our community,” Kalantari-Johnson said. “This is every single person showing up for the children in our community who don’t have a voice and who don’t get to vote. It’s standing for all children, not just the affluent or those who have always been able to access it. So it’s our commitment to well-being for all children.”