Taxes increase in Sonoma County

Sonoma County residents are seeing their taxes increase to support everything from library services to regulation of the local marijuana industry. 

A few of the tax increases took effect on April 1.

To start, a voter-approved library tax has gone into effect, adding an additional eighth of one cent to the tax on purchases made in Sonoma County.

This tax will provide eward Sonoma County libraries $10 million a year in additional revenue, adding to its annual budget of $17 million. 

Library Director Brett Lear said the greatest benefit from the newly added tax will be reopening of certain library branches on certain days such as Sundays and extending library hours, starting in May.

With the additional revenue, the libraries also plan to significantly expand on programs that are offered, such as educational workshops, beginning soon. They also plan to hire more employees, having more than 45 positions they hope to fill.

While many citizens of Sonoma County will benefit from the library tax, the biggest tax raise won’t be pleasing to those who smoke. The current tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes is 87 cents and on April 1, it increasedto $2.87 per pack of 20.

This jump in the tax rate is a result of the passage Proposition 56, which California voters approved on Nov.8 with nearly 65 percent of the vote. Formally known as the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, backers like the American Heart Association have tried to pass a tax increase on cigarettessince March 2004.  

Under Proposition 56, $48 million of the funds raised by the tax increase will go toward enforcing tobacco laws while $40 million will go toward helping boost the number of primary care and emergency physicians in the state. 

Another $30 million will go toward preventing and treating dental diseases.Also on April 1, devices containing nicotine, such as electronic cigarettes, were subject to a 27.3 percent tax rate as well.

InSonoma County, there are almost 570 deaths related to smoking every year.

The county’s health officer, Karen Milman, said she believes the jump in tax rate on tobacco products will hopefully lead to a decrease in tobacco use, which will ultimately push us towards being a healthier county.

Figuring out how to pay for marijuana’s regulation in the state has been difficult. After popular vote legalized it in California, the state needed to regulate this crop. Last month, Sonoma County voters also approved a local tax on marijuana sales.e.  On March 7, Sonoma County voters approve Measure A, which places a tax of up to 10 percent on revenue from commercial growers and dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county. 

The tax passed by a more than 2-to-1 margin and is expected to generate $6.3 million to $15.3 million a year, money that will help the county regulate the cannabis industry.

This tax is in addition to the 15 percent tax on marijuana purchases that statewide voters approved with the passage of Proposition 64 on Nov. 8. The proposition legalized the use of recreational marijuana by those over 21 in California.