County officials have been debating several potential tax measures in an effort to fund efforts to reduce homelessness in Los Angeles county, including a “millionaires tax” on high-income earners, a sales tax, and a property tax, but those proposals failed to get the support of the board. The board approved the marijuana tax measure in a 3-2 vote this month, county analysts estimating that the proposed 10% levy on the marijuana businesses, raising up to $130 million a year for substance abuse treatment and mental health, as well as other services to get people out of homelessness. The bulk of revenue would come if California voters legalized recreational marijuana in a November ballot. On Friday, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who wrote the marijuana tax proposal, introduced a method to stop the measure from going on the ballot. She worried it would be difficult to get the two-thirds majority without a united support among homeless advocates.
The marijuana tax proposal was complicated by the fact that recreational and medical pot businesses are banned in county unincorporated areas. The county passed a plan to reduce homelessness in February, budgeting about $100 million this year to pay for the programs. Officials say it will take approximately $450 million a year to be able to make a significant dent in the problem.
The county’s homeless population was nearly 47,000 according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a number that has increased substantially in recent years. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas voted against the marijuana tax, pushing instead for a quarter-cent sales tax measure that would have raised an estimated $355 million a year. The proposal would have required a four-fifths vote to place it on the ballot, and Ridley-Thomas was unable to round up a needed last vote earlier this month. The county could potentially pursue a measure next year. This November, the election will bring in two new board members that could shift the board to the left, meaning the four votes for a sales tax can be plausible.
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