Californians vote on the fate of Newsom’s Prop. 1

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Californians vote on the fate of Newsom’s Prop. 1

California politics, 2024 elections, mental health

Taryn Luna

March 5, 2024

California voters Tuesday

will decide decided

the fate of Proposition 1, a statewide ballot measure that Gov. Gavin Newsom has advocated as crucial to solving the state’s mental health and homelessness crisis.

USE THIS LEDE IN THE FIRST UPDATE IF YOU WIN: Proposition 1, a statewide measure that Gov. Gavin Newsom, championed as crucial to solving the mental health and homelessness crisis, appears poised to succeed in California’s primary. USE THIS LEAD IN THE FIRST UPDATE IF YOU LOSE: The Proposition 1 ballot measures that Gov. Gavin Newsom, considered critical to solving the state’s mental health and homelessness crisis, lagged in early returns in California’s primary, raising the possibility of a stunning Democratic loss governor emerged.

The measure redirects an existing tax on the wealthy under the state’s 20-year-old Mental Health Services Act to fund services for people with substance abuse disorders and includes a $6.4 billion bond to build more than 10,000 treatment beds.

ADD FOR FIRST UPDATE: Proposition 1 received support from XX% of voters in early filings Tuesday night, as XX% rejected the measure.

Newsom campaigned from San Francisco to San Diego ahead of the primaries, calling on voters to approve the measure to tackle the most vexing problem of his governorship and the most visible challenge in his home state, where voters are alarmed have been affected by the number of people living in tents and under highways in cities large and small.

At rallies and in advertisements, Newsom portrayed Proposition 1 as an opportunity to correct past mistakes, when the state closed state mental health hospitals in the 1960s without boosting local services, “leading to decades of neglect.”

“Prop. 1 finally writes a new chapter,” Newsom said. “Prop. 1 rightes a historic wrong.”

Statewide, about 181,000 people, including 75,000 in Los Angeles County, are homeless, according to 2023 counts. According to a recent study from UC San Francisco, as many as 82% of unhoused people have experienced a serious mental illness, and nearly two-thirds have used illicit drugs regularly.

Arguing that the status quo isn’t working, Newsom has implemented a series of policies since taking office to address the problem, such as expanding the criteria under which people can be held against their will with substance abuse, giving and authorities the ability to ask courts to order treatment for people and expand the availability of temporary and permanent shelters.

Proposal 1 complements these efforts by renewing the Mental Health Services Act, which was approved by voters


to include treatment for people with substance abuse, regardless of whether they suffer from a mental illness. The law imposes a 1% tax on incomes over $1 million to fund the expansion of mental health treatment options in California, which will be refocused under Proposition 1.

The measure also increases state oversight of county spending on behavioral health care, at a time when Newsom has repeatedly questioned local governments’ resolution to solve the problem.

But every step Newsom takes is met with resistance from both the right and left.

Liberal organizations are concerned that Newsom’s policies, such as CARE Court and expanding the conservatorship, could infringe on civil rights, deter people from seeking help for fear of being forced into care and

limit shipment


in to

more severe treatment settings than necessary. Local governments have expressed concerns about their ability to fund the governor’s more ambitious policy directives and to quickly train police and other personnel to comply with the new laws.

Meanwhile, voters are frustrated with the lack of progress and Republicans claim that unchecked liberal rule in California has caused the crisis.

Opponents of Proposition 1 cited the high price tag as one reason they wanted voters to reject the measure.


“No matter where you stand politically, there is something in Prop. 1 to hate,” Paul Simmons, executive director of Californians Against Proposition 1, said in a statement.

days before election Monday

. “Whether it’s the cost, or the track record of failure, or the fact that Prop. 1 is harming people who are now receiving mental health care, there are red lights flashing everywhere.”

The California Department of Finance estimates that the Behavioral Health Infrastructure Bond within Proposition 1 would cost a total of $14 billion. Bonds, which are purchased by investors, act as loans that the government pays back with interest.

Two bills that sent the measure to the March ballot received rare bipartisan support in the state Legislature, with Republicans and Democrats abandoning their party corners to offer voters a possible solution to a problem plaguing the state. But on Election Day, voters did not appear to share the bipartisan spirit.

The measure faltered with just 50% support in a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by The Times taken in late February. A large majority of Republican voters opposed the measure and were concerned about how Proposal 1 would fare in elections with higher Republican turnout.


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