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October 18, 2004
Californians Go Crazy Over Mentally Ill

Californians have put a new ballot initiative in front of voters this November asking for a new tax "on the rich" to fund increased spending on the mentally ill. Datelined out of San Francisco, which should surprise no one in California, the proponents of this new tax want to continue expanding the Golden State's welfare system:

As pressures increase on California's mental health system, its workers and advocates say they are forced to do more with a supply of money that seems to shrink each year.

"The number of people who need services is growing. The cost of the services is growing. The revenue source is not growing," said Patricia Ryan, executive director of the California Mental Health Directors Association.

Note that the AP reports that the money "seems" to shrink every year. That's an important qualification for a ballot initiative. Had the money actually shrunk, the AP and the CMHDA would have provided reams of supporting material making that case. As it stands, I would guess that the lack of such an argument means that their funding has either remained constant -- which would be remarkable, given California's deep budget problems -- or has increased at a rate they find insufficient.

What solution do they propose? Chasing more productive Californians into Nevada:

A possible solution? A measure on the November ballot that would dramatically bolster the flagging system by pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars and asking the wealthy to pick up the tab.

If passed, Proposition 63 would mandate that anyone with a net income of more than $1 million be taxed an additional one percent on every dollar earned beyond the first million.

The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates the measure would raise $275 million in 2004-05, swelling to $750 million the next year and $800 million thereafter. A newly created commission would oversee the distribution of the funds to counties that submit spending plans.

In other words, this is a two-fer; the statists in California get hundreds of millions of dollars and a brand-spankin' new bureaucracy to eat them up. Not only does this sound like the kind of thinking that got California into its present budget woes, but it also hints at a patronage system on the horizon, where cronyism and political correctness determine funding. The patronage part has already shown its face, as proponents of the initiative have raised $2.3 million, against a mere $5,000 in opposition.

Forgetting the arguments that tax-opponents will surely raise, such as the repelling effect this new measure will have on keeping liquid capital in-state, let's take a look at the kind of situations that the ballot proponents say will be helped by the new tax. Consider the case of Carrie McGinniss, who supposedly faces ejection from her halfway house due to budget constraints:

For Progress Foundation, which gets about 30 percent of its money from the city and county, additional money would mean it could provide more residential housing, where patients like Carrie McGinniss, 55, can get a chance to recuperate and rebuild while still maintaining their independence.

McGinniss, who is bipolar, is one of an estimated 2 million in the state who suffer from some form of mental illness. She used to be one of an estimated 55,000 homeless who are also mentally ill, but she has lived at a Progress Foundation house for the last eight years.

Get a chance to rebuild and recuperate? She's been there for eight years. How much longer before she is rebuilt and fully recuperated? Progress Foundation and the AP want you to think that these programs are helping hands for those who have temporary needs, but what they deliver is another cradle-to-grave welfare program, under a different name. Instead of working through the legislature to get funds for their pet projects, they instead rely on class warfare and come up with another "soak the rich" scheme that only ensures that more capital moves out of California, when they sorely need the investments to maintain the economy.

If Californians keep passing new taxes like this regardless of the motivation, they will find themselves in another recession and budget disaster of their own making. A Yes vote on 63 will only confirm that the patients are truly running the asylum.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 18, 2004 7:05 AM

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The election is over for me, as I just voted via absentee ballot. In California, we have a lot of propositions on the ballot, some of which are quite important. My wife and I spent a substantial amount of time going through them, reading suporting in... [Read More]

Tracked on October 18, 2004 11:45 AM

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