There are a couple of ways of looking at the fact that Santa Barbara County is No. 1 in California with regard to state-issued licenses for cannabis cultivation.
If your firmly-held belief is that marijuana growing, sales and use is a bad thing, being No. 1 is definitely a negative.
On the other hand, if you hold the view that the marijuana industry will be good for the local economy, being tops in the state in cannabis licensing is most definitely a plus.
Like just about everything else related to the steady legalization of marijuana in America, there is plenty of room for debate.
One irrefutable fact about the expanding marijuana industry is that it has at least the potential to generate a considerable amount of tax revenue. Some of the county’s cities are embracing this new business, and already counting on the millions of dollars it will contribute to local government’s tax base.
And based on the latest information, Santa Barbara County is definitely going to need all the extra revenue it can get its hands on.
County officials reported last week that the combined public-sector response and recovery costs associated with the Thomas fire and subsequent mudslide through major sections of Montecito have reached $46 million, and the meter continues to run.
A major chunk of that expense will be paid out of state and federal disaster funds, but local officials anticipate the county budget will get slammed for years to come.
County officials are already making fiscal adjustments to deal with those unanticipated expenses. To help cover immediate costs, the county Board of Supervisors voted last week to transfer $6.25 million from the county’s strategic reserve fund to the General Fund departments involved with response and recovery for the two disasters.
While voting for the funds exchange, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino pointed out that county employees, department heads and others need to understand that sum represents 20 percent of the county’s strategic reserves, “and it’s not over yet.”
That’s an acknowledgment of reality, and something far too many government officials don’t seem to get.
It is apparent that California governments function from one disaster to the next, with elected officials keeping their fingers crossed that their jurisdiction will dodge the next, inevitable bullet. That’s positive thinking, but not at all realistic.
California is blessed with many wonderful assets. Our state is one of the most geographically diverse in the nation. We have mountains, deserts and just about everything in between. Our weather is next to ideal, and the views are matchless.
But California also has one of the nation’s most diverse disaster portfolios, which includes drought, wildfires, torrential downpours, mudslides and the ever-present threat of the Big One.
Given that reality, you might think socking away some extra cash for emergencies would be a must-do priority for California governments. Not so much. We mostly live day to day, hoping for the best.
The Thomas fire and subsequent flooding’s financial impacts will require years of investment by county government, fiscal impacts that will resonate through every county service and program.
Add to that reality the fact that county government is on the hook for mandated, but unfunded pension benefits, plus a massive backlog of deferred maintenance, and you have a recipe for future fiscal mayhem.
Elected officials like to pass such costs on to future generations, but that too is a recipe for disaster, just one that today’s policy makers won’t be around to suffer through.
Considering all that, any promising new industry may not be such a bad idea.