Prop 1 faces divided reception in Central Valley

(Rigo Moran)

California’s Proposition 1, a $6.4 billion bond measure, inches ahead by a slim margin in Presidential Primary, with a divergence of support in Central Valley regions

SACRAMENTO – Proposition 1 is inching its way towards victory in California’s Presidential Primary Election, though by a narrow margin, with lukewarm support evident in Central Valley counties.

The proposition is a measure backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and authorizes over $6.4 billion in bonds to build mental health treatment facilities and housing. It was promoted as a lifeline to the estimated 10,000 veterans living on California streets.

California has over 22 million registered voters. As of this writing, with 1,884,614 votes cast in favor, the measure enjoys a small majority over the 1,870,020 votes cast against it, which means 50.2% of California voters said yes and 49.8% said no.

Within the Central Valley region, voter results thus far are indicating a lack of support for the proposition. In Tulare County, which has 213,880 registered voters according to the California Secretary of State, just over 33,000 – or 15% – of the county’s registered voters cast ballots in this election. Of these, 18,630 voted against Proposition 1 while 11,345 voted in favor.

As for Fresno County, which has 506,668 registered voters, just over 82,000 – 16% – cast ballots in the primary. Nearly 44,000 voted against Proposition 1 and 34,513 voted in favor. James A. Kus, the County Clerk/Registrar of Voters for Fresno County, said voter turnout across the state has been down for this election, with Fresno County falling below the state average.

“Fresno County has historically been around 40% for Presidential Primaries over the past couple of decades,” said Kus. “We had a turnout under 30% in the 2012 Presidential Primary. I believe we can go over that number when everything is counted in this election.”

About 10% of Kern County’s 441,000 registered voters turned out for this election. Nearly 60% voted against the Proposition. Madera County has 74,723 voters. Just over 16,000 voted – 21% – with over 9,000 voting against.

The results of the election will be certified on April 12.

REVAMPING MSHA

Proposition 1 revamps the state’s Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), which was passed in 2004. Counties receive $10 billion to $13 billion annually from state taxes and federal money to provide behavioral health treatment. MHSA taxes individuals with incomes over $1 million per year. Proposition 1 makes no changes to the MHSA tax.

According to the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO), currently, county programs receive 95% of MHSA tax money; state programs receive 5%. Under Proposition 1, state programs will receive 10% of tax money; counties will receive 90%. This translates to $140 million annually being shifted from the counties to the state.

Proposition 1 allows the state to sell $6.4 billion in new bonds. Up to $4.4 billion will be allocated to a state program to build mental health and substance abuse treatment centers. At least $1.5 billion of the $4.4 billion must be earmarked for local governments and tribes.

Proposition 1 allocates $2 billion to the state to disperse money to local governments to convert hotels, motels and other buildings into housing and to construct new housing – about 4,350 new units. People who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless or who have mental health, drug or alcohol problems will be given priority for housing. Just over $1 billion of the $2 billion will be set aside for veterans.

Supporters of the measure, including California Professional Firefighters, California Association of Veteran Service Agencies and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), raised over $14 million for the “Yes on 1” campaign, compared to $1,000 raised by the “No on 1” camp.

Opponents of the measure argued it was just another bloated state program that takes money from county mental health programs that are working. Opponents, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, also argued that Proposition 1 will increase the state’s staggering debt, which currently stands at about $58 billion.

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