Pay as you go: Chico Supervisor Mary Anne Houx confirmed this week that Butte County Board of Supervisors is mulling whether to ask voters in November to approve a half-cent sales tax increase to help pay for ailing public-safety programs. Just last week, the board passed a budget with deep cuts in funding for a slew of county services. But the board is most worried that cuts to the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices will increase crime and tick off voters. “I don’t like it but it may be something we have to do,” Houx said. “I believe the one thing government has to do is provide public protection. People want to feel safe. When they call 911, they want someone to show up.”

The board has no authority to pass a new tax and must gain a supermajority—four votes in this case—to float a ballot measure. Whether that will happen is an open question because the likely holdouts—Richvale’s Curt Josiassen and Paradise’s Kim Yamaguchi—are known to be strongly anti-tax. Yet neither will face re-election until 2009. Josiassen, who won office in 1996 by campaigning against a now-sunseted but once-controversial utility tax, has promised he will not run again. But then, he promised that in 1996, too.

Neighboring Tehama County recently decided to put a similar sales tax increase before voters there, and other cash-strapped counties across the state are expected to follow suit. Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to claim that his proposed state budget contains “no new taxes.”

LIKE, I DIG YOUR ROBE, MAN: The U.S. Supreme Court this week announced it will hear a medical-marijuana case brought by an Oroville woman who claims the cannabis she uses under a doctor’s recommendation should not be subject to federal anti-drug laws. The case—Raich v. Ashcroft—deals partially with an incident at the Oroville foothills home of Diane Monson, whose medical marijuana garden was ripped out by DEA agents over the objections of local authorities. Monson and fellow med-pot user Angel Raich sued the government on the grounds that federal drug laws are unconstitutional when applied to those whose use of the drug is legal under state law and that such use has no effect on interstate commerce.

The 9th Circuit Court dealt a blow to John Ashcroft and the Justice Department last December when it sided with Raich and Monson. Then in May, a federal judge issued an injunction protecting Monson from persecution by the DEA. When the top court rules on the case this winter, it could set a precedent in the ongoing debate over medical marijuana, which advocates see as both a states’ rights and a drug policy issue.