As the legislators in the state of Washington begin the annual battle of the budget, both Republicans and Democrats are taking a hard look at a possible solution: Marijuana tax.
At a legislative forum on Thursday in the state’s capital city of Olympia, the party leaders squared off on how to pay for education funding.
- RELATED STORY: How Weed Will Help Fight Bullies In Colorado
“I believe marijuana dollars should go into education,” said Republican state Sen. Ann Rivers, who is member of a special task force focused on the education budget. “That’s one idea: We put [cannabis tax revenue] into a pot and then we use it for one purpose,” added Rivers.
Democrat Christine Rolfes is willing to look at the idea. “All options are on the table,” Rolfes said. “If we need to dedicate marijuana money to get the job done, we’re certainly open to that conversation.”
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat beginning his second term and who served six terms in the state legislator, is dubious that the tax revenue will make even a small dent on the state’s education budget.
“It doesn’t come close,” Inslee said. The governor said he is willing to take a look at the proposal but warned that the education shortfall is too massive.
Inslee offered up a $4.4 billion plan that would fully fund K-12 education and give teachers a competitive wage. Inslee’s plan would add capital gains tax on the higher-income Washingtonians and a carbon tax on the state’s largest industrial polluters, among other revenue streams. Republican lawmakers say they will fight the governor’s proposal.
The Washington cannabis market is now a $1 billion industry in just two years of legalization. Last year, it generated $250 million in revenue for the state’s coffers. Most of the tax dollars end up in the state’s general fund. Some is funneled to cannabis research and treatment centers.