Wolf Votes No on Santa Barbara County Budget

Supervisor Concerned with Speculative Tax Revenue 

Concerned with allocating money that hasn’t shown up yet, Supervisor Janet Wolf, in her 12th and final budget hearing, voted against the county budget. 
Paul Wellman

Second District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf voted against adopting the $1.1 billion 2018-19 fiscal budget at Monday’s hearing ​— ​her first vote against a budget in her 12-year tenure. It will also be her last; she retires this year. Wolf said her reservation stemmed from the inclusion of the county’s all-new cannabis-tax revenue as a onetime funding source for projects.

On June 5, voters passed the tax on cannabis operations. The ballot measure estimated a revenue stream between $5 million and $25 million annually. However, the board used a much more conservative income of $6.2 million, of which $1.7 million funds enforcement against illegal cannabis operations. This first year, about $4.6 million will be available as a onetime funding source to distribute among one-off investments or projects. However, wary of allocating money they do not yet have, supervisors erred on the side of caution and reduced the net cannabis tax revenue expectation to $3.75 million. They distributed the money among maintenance, public libraries, and the utility-grade solar ordinance and placed $1.5 million back into the strategic reserve. The majority of supervisors were on board, and the budget passed with a vote of 4-1.

“I’m incredibly disappointed,” Wolf said. “We are moving forward with an allocation of money that we don’t even know that we have.” First District Supervisor Das Williams disagreed. “I think it’s a fiscally prudent budget,” he said. Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam, known for voting against the majority, commended Wolf. “I think it’s really healthy when not everyone votes for a budget,” he said. “Coming up with something that not everybody can agree on ​— ​that means it’s better.” Before the meeting adjourned, Williams led the supervisors in a round of applause for Wolf’s 12th and final budget hearing.

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