The spring 2023 early primary and special election season brought several wins that will provide dedicated funding to support children. Learn about how these three communities said “yes” to supporting children below.

Anchorage, AK

Ballot Title: Proposition 14 – Marijuana Retail Tax Proceeds Measure

Campaign: Yes on 14 – Care for Kids

Election Results: Passed (56% to 44%)

What It Will Fund: Child care and early education

Projected Annual Revenue: Approximately $5 million to $6 million

On April 4, voters in Anchorage, AK, approved a ballot measure that dedicates retail marijuana sales tax to child care and early education programs. Marijuana already is taxed in Anchorage through a 5% sales tax, and in previous years this tax raised between $5 million and $6 million for the city’s general fund. Proposition 14 does not levy a new tax or even raise the existing tax rate; rather it redirects the marijuana sales tax revenue from the general fund to a dedicated fund for child care and early education.

The city is creating an Accountability Board of Child Care and Early Education to monitor spending and support the advancement of child care and early education in Anchorage. The funding will support increased access to early childhood programs, fund reading programs in child care and early education centers, and support livable wages and professional development for early childhood providers.

The campaign emphasized that limited access to child care has led to lost wages and high costs for Anchorage residents. “Here in Alaska, it’s about $165 million in lost revenue because we have people that aren’t able to work, calling in because they don’t have child care, things of that nature,” Trevor Storrs, president and CEO of Alaska Children’s Trust, told Alaska Public Media.

King County, WA

Ballot Title: Proposition No. 1 – Crisis Care Centers Tax Measure

Campaign: Yes on Prop 1 for Behavioral Health

Election Results: Passed (56% to 44%)

What It Will Fund: Mental and substance abuse crisis care centers including one dedicated to youth younger than age 19

Projected Annual Revenue: An average of $139 million

Residents of King County, WA, and its county seat of Seattle, approved a modest property tax levy to fund the construction and operation of five new mental health crisis centers across the county, including one dedicated to children and teens 18 years old and younger. Proposition 1, which passed by a margin of 56% to 44% during the April 25 special election, received a diverse collection of endorsements including key support from local chambers of commerce and some of the region’s largest employers (including Microsoft and Amazon).

While not what we typically classify as a voter approved children’s fund, the passing of Proposition 1 is evidence that youth mental health support remains a high priority for post-pandemic voters. A 2021 national poll commissioned by Children’s Funding Project shows that 79% of all voters ranked youth mental health services as a high or very high priority. The success of this campaign should encourage localities seeking public revenue to provide mental health services to children.

Portland, OR

Ballot Title: Renew Portland Children’s Levy Investment for Five Years

Campaign: Renew the Portland Children’s Levy

Election Results: Passed (71% to 29%)

What It Will Fund: Comprehensive children’s services

Projected Annual Revenue: $28 million

During a special election on May 16, 2023, Portland voters renewed the Portland Children’s Levy for the fourth time with more than 70% of voters approving the measure. The levy originally passed in 2002, earning only 54.4% of the vote. Voters must renew the Portland Children’s Levy every five years. It will return to the ballot once again in 2028.

The Portland Children’s Levy funds comprehensive children’s services through a 40 cents per $1,000 of value property tax. In fiscal year 2022, the levy raised more than $27 million that was distributed as grants to support children through early childhood programs, mentoring, child abuse prevention and intervention, after-school programs, hunger relief, and more. The comprehensive and flexible nature of the Portland Children’s Levy demonstrates how flexible, dedicated funding can be a powerful tool in responding to changing community needs. This fund played a critical role in helping children and providers adapt to virtual learning settings and supported basic needs of students and families through the pandemic. It continues to support children as they navigate the social and emotional challenges of returning to a new normal after the pandemic as Portland providers work to close achievement gaps to return to pre-pandemic outcomes. This fund is now complemented by Multnomah County’s Preschool for All. This initiative, which passed in 2020, raised $187 million in fiscal year 2022 to support preschool access and increase teacher and staff wages in the Portland/Multnomah area.

Dan Whitaker is a senior policy associate at Children’s Funding Project.