Although Jeremy Ball has the support of Democratic campaigners for the non-partisan office of Lompoc City Council, he has been unable to demonstrate that he has a complex understanding of finance or policy. Lompoc cannot afford to have him on council.
Ball has one refrain for most of the big questions: if we just had the will to tax more we can solve any and every problem.
Not only is this a naive and fiscally irresponsible way to approach policy and governing, it also displays a clear lack of understanding about how tax policy directly affects sustainable growth.
Let’s take Lompoc’s current growth industry for example: cannabis. While Ball claims he is “pro cannabis” over and over, one of his talking points is that Lompoc is getting cheated because we aren’t taxing the cannabis businesses enough. Although Jeremy’s business - marketing for wineries - relies on serving as many clients as possible who want to stand out in a free market - at the AAUW forum last week he mocked the “free market experiment” for cannabis and has told many privately that he would advocate for moratoriums on new dispensaries.
If the taxes are raised higher, the businesses will leave. Lompoc’s policy was unique in the state, which is what has attracted so many businesses to town. In 2019, 50 new businesses filled our empty storefronts and warehouses, with even more setting up, despite the pandemic and recession.
Our tax policy made us competitive, because outside the city of Lompoc, cannabis operators are already getting layered with taxes at all levels. Under federal tax code 280E they cannot write off most of their expenses, meaning they are taxed first on gross revenues rather than profits. Then the state layers production taxes on top and a 15% tax at the point of sale. Most cities in California that have allowed cannabis are taxing up to 15% more on top of that. All the layers of tax cannabis businesses have to pay have pushed a lot of operations around the state back underground, where not a single penny gets taxed at all at any level. Lompoc does tax an additional 6% at the point of sale, even for medical use, but remains competitive.
Many cities banned the commercial industry outright, like Santa Maria. Others, like Santa Barbara, released only three licenses with expensive barriers to entry. Laws like this are why there is very little community ownership in most places and why the big cities are scrambling to find ways to make the cannabis industry more equitable for women and minorities. In Lompoc, everyone gets a chance to compete and our business ownership is more local and more diverse as a result.
The loss of these cities has been Lompoc’s gain. Many of the people waiting in line at Lompoc’s dispensaries have driven from up to five hours away because Lompoc has the most competitive market in the state.
What this comes down to is economically sustainable growth versus the sugar rush of a new tax. It’s not about the cannabis plant or Ball’s personal view of it at all, it is about a thorough understanding of the economic challenges and opportunities that Lompoc has in front of it. The choice is clear; we either build a stable budget and grow our tax base in Lompoc by re-electing Jim Mosby, or we run the new industry out of town, tax our residents more to pay for the basics and keep hoping we get a different result.
Angela Bacca is a Lompoc resident.
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