Come election day Sacramento voters will decide whether to set aside a 5 percent tax on marijuana cultivators for youth services. Measure Y was authored by Councilman Jay Schenirer who says youth services are woefully underfunded and a dedicated revenue stream is necessary to increase the health and safety of our children.
Schenirer’s Chief of Staff, Joseph Devlin says the council hasn’t funded these programs yet and that’s why they’re asking the voters to weigh in.
“There’s a gap between what our young people need in this city and what we’re able to provide,” says Devlin. “There’s a lot of prevention programs we know work, that schools are not able to do.”
Councilman Jeff Harris comes down firmly against the measure, saying it will divert money from other city services.
“It’s a really poor fiscal policy move for the city to take,” says Harris. “When you look at our general fund and how we run the city; of course we have to tackle many many issues... that’s why we have the general fund. When you run the city you have to run the whole city, you can’t start carving off pieces just because it’s your particular passion.”
The taxes generated from marijuana cultivation, without Measure Y, would go right to the general fund. Some of the Measure Y money would go to after-school programs run by nonprofits, like the literacy nonprofit 916 Ink, headed up by Katie McCleary.
“As an individual, I am in full support of Measure Y because it's time for our city to invest in young people by solidifying a funding stream for community based organizations who provide life changing services to youth citizens,” she explains. “If the money were to go into the general fund, I fear it will be swallowed by police and fire (which almost 80-85 percent of the city budget goes toward). Youth services will always be dropped to the bottom of priorities and measure Y ensures they won't be forgotten.”
Harris says the city does plenty to help youth, he points to the city’s contributions to the B Street Theater, The St. John’s Program for Real Change (homeless mothers and youth) and the Gang Prevention and Intervention Task Force - all of which were funded through the normal budget process.
“The votes are there, he just has to fight a little harder for them,” says Harris. “If he gets Measure Y passed it’s locked up in perpetuity and that money will never go to the general fund and he doesn’t have to fight anymore.”
“The need has been there and we’ve never been able to fund those programs. Children don’t have lobbyist. These programs are the last to be funded and the last to be cut,” says Devlin. “The political will has yet to be found by the majority of the council.”
Harris’s concern is city services that benefit youth aren’t currently funded at baseline.
“I can foresee, in the future, if we hit another bump in the road economically and we’re in a deficit year that we’d be funding these youth programs while we’re cutting community centers and laying off cops - that’s a place we do not want to get to. So all this money has to go into the general fund.”
Devlin says it’s a low risk, high gain proposition.
“I think we have a great deal of discretion over the general fund and what those priorities are,” says Devlin. “This is a very small amount of money in the great scheme of things when looking at the budget at a total.”
Harris isn’t buying that argument.
“$5 million means the world when you have a $2 million deficit. If you have a deficit you’re cutting something. We need the flexibility to run the whole city.”
Another group pushing Measure Y: marijuana cultivators and dispensaries. The Sacramento Bee recently reported the pro-Measure Y campaign raised more than $92,000 from marijuana-related businesses.
Yes Y or no Y, it’s in the hands of the voters now.