Sacramento Bee Examines Ballot Measure To Fund Expansion of Mental Health Services
The Sacramento Bee on Thursday examined the debate over Proposition 63, a measure on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would finance an expansion of mental health services through a 1% increase in the state personal income tax for state residents whose annual incomes exceed $1 million. The tax increase would affect between 25,000 and 30,000 state residents (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 10/7). The measure would raise an estimated $275 million in additional revenue in fiscal year 2004-2005, $750 million in FY 2005-2006 and $800 million in subsequent fiscal years, according to an estimate by the Legislative Analyst's Office (California Healthline, 10/5). The office also said that an expansion of mental health services could save the state millions of dollars in costs for incarceration, medical care, homeless shelters and social service programs. Assembly member Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) decided to place the measure on the ballot because he and mental health advocates concluded that "the Legislature would never provide enough money to shore up the state's mental health system," the Bee reports. Bill Zimmerman, a political consultant who drafted the measure with Steinberg, said, "People in those income brackets have such clout with legislators, by virtue of being the donor base they go to for campaign contributions, it's been impossible (to raise their taxes)." However, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, criticized the measure as "the ultimate form of discrimination." Coupal said, "You don't have to be a millionaire to be hurt by a tax on millionaires," adding that passage of the measure could prompt millionaires to leave California and invest in other states (Sacramento Bee, 10/7).
Two newspapers this week featured a letter to the editor and an editorial on Proposition 63. Summaries appear below.
- James Christiansen, Modesto Bee: Proposition 63 is "a necessary measure" that would serve the "best interests" of the state and address "shortfalls and a lack of resources" for mental health services over the past 35 years, Christiansen, a resource officer with the Stanislaus Chapter of Mental Health Consumers, writes in a Bee letter to the editor. "People in the highest tax bracket who will be taxed under this measure can afford the very best in psychiatric and mental health care in the world, while we who rely on the public mental health system cannot," he adds (Christiansen, Modesto Bee, 10/6).
- Bakersfield Californian: "Funding mental health programs should be a state priority," but Proposition 63 amounts to "bad fiscal policy today and could be disastrous in years to come," according to a Californian editorial. The editorial states that the measure would take from the governor and lawmakers the "flexibility for allocating scarce tax dollars." Passage of the measure would establish a "dangerous precedent for other special interests to hijack California's budgeting system," the editorial adds (Bakersfield Californian, 10/5).