YAKIMA, Wash. -- More than three years after recreational marijuana sales began in Washington, cities are seeing less and less of the pot revenue the state once promised.
As cities struggle with budgets, they’re going to feel the pain from money they aren’t getting, said Association of Washington Cities government relations advocate Candice Bock.
Of the $550 million in marijuana taxes expected to be generated next year, cities where sales are allowed had been expected to share in $15 million of the state’s revenue in each of the next two years and
$20 million starting in 2020. But now the state says it will only share $6 million statewide for the foreseeable future.
That’s in part because legislators voted earlier this year to use part of the revenue to boost basic education funding as required by a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling.
As it now stands, Yakima expects to get $124,000 each year.
“Seventy percent of our budget goes to public safety, so we probably wouldn’t have it earmarked to go there, but that is where it will get used. That’s the only place we’re growing in the budget,” said Yakima interim budget and finance director Tara Lewis, who added she understands the state’s need to divert the money to schools.
Lewis compared the money to coming home from work with an additional $100.
“We appreciate any revenue we can pick up, obviously, but for the city of Yakima (decreasing the money going to cities) wasn’t a good idea,” she said.
To the south, Union Gap has reaped more than half a million dollars since 2014 because it allowed marijuana retail earlier than other cities and thus got a larger share of the revenue. The city has funneled that money into youth programs including a summer camp, skate park and padding a reserve fund for playground equipment and other park improvements.
“It’s all about providing a positive structured environment so children can use a positive decision making skills,” said City Manager Arlene Fisher-Maurer. “There’s a hope that as they get older they make the right decisions.”
But there could be more money for cities in the future.
Bock said if the state sees an increase in general revenue, legislators could increase the marijuana money going to cities.
Lawmakers say if the next revenue forecast in February is $18 million more than the last forecast, the share of marijuana taxes going to cities could rise to $15 million.