Measure Y on Sacramento’s June 7 ballot proposes to take revenue from a tax on marijuana cultivation, scheduled to go into the city’s general fund, and dedicate that money in perpetuity to programs for children and youths.
At issue is how we support youths while promoting sound fiscal policy.
The recession required many tough decisions to keep our city solvent. We had to make drastic cuts in all areas; the Department of Parks and Recreation was hit especially hard, including its youth programs. Now is the time to rebuild those programs with general fund money.
Money from Measure Y could not be used to do that. Instead, it would dedicate 70 percent of the revenue to private nonprofits for new programs.
Although the measure’s proponents say that only 1 percent of our general fund is spent on youths, the truth is that we spend far more than that.
We fund many youth initiatives through parks, pools, libraries and community centers. The City Council recently approved $620,000 for youth programs through the gang prevention and intervention task force. We also allocated $3 million to the B Street Theatre and $600,000 to the St. John’s homeless shelter. All these expenditures directly benefit children and youths, but would not qualify for Measure Y funding.
Can we do more?
Yes, and the fiscally sound way to do it is by depositing all new tax revenue in the general fund, then balancing the city’s many needs, such as public safety, parks, economic development, affordable housing and homelessness. All of these initiatives create a more functional city that benefits our youths and all our citizens.
This measure would lock millions of dollars of new revenue away for a sole purpose – to pay for youth programs principally through nonprofit groups. It also allocates as much as 15 percent of revenue for a new and unnecessary bureaucracy. This is “ballot box budgeting,” plain and simple. It would limit the ability of this council and future councils to allocate money where it is most needed.
Considering that the council has already demonstrated a will to fund new youth programs, and that almost everything we approve benefits kids in some way, there is no compelling reason to circumvent our system and sequester money for the special passion of one council member, while hurting broader community needs.
Adopting Measure Y would set a precedent where any council member could try to lock up new revenue streams, leading to a very dysfunctional city process.
We need to exercise fiscal responsibility and sound policy to achieve our goals. Promoting the health, safety and sound development of our children is prominent among them. Let’s support youths the right way.
Jeff Harris represents District 3 on the Sacramento City Council and signed the ballot argument against Measure Y. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.