(KEYE) – State leaders estimate Texas could see an economic downturn of billions of dollars because of the coronavirus pandemic. The losses will directly impact sales tax revenue as businesses keep their doors closed and unemployment rises.
Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, says widespread marijuana legalization could help.
"When our state is facing an unprecedented economic downturn we have to look at alternatives," says Fazio.
Fazio estimates if lawmakers legalize marijuana in Texas, the state could receive up to $1 billion in additional sales tax revenue -- money needed to fund education and health and human services.
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UT Economist Dr. Mike Sadler says legalizing marijuana has the potential to significantly help the state and add needed new jobs. However, that's not guaranteed.
Sadler says some states, like California, haven't been able to generate the revenue they were expecting the marijuana industry. "It seems to be very much dependent on how you go about doing this and what taxes and regulations you put in place," says Sadler.
Fazio tells CBS Austin, both conservative and progressive lawmakers are discussing the topic now. She anticipates a renewed focus on the issue come next legislative session as lawmakers look for ways to mitigate losses from the shutdown.
CBS Austin reached out to Governor Greg Abbott's office for comment but did not hear back.