California taxed millionaires to fix its mental health crisis. Why it’s fallen so short

Nearly two decades ago, California voters passed a landmark tax on millionaires envisioned as a game changer for mental health.

Supporters promised the new money would drastically reduce homelessness and improve access to services for all Californians.

“No one who is mentally ill and now on the street will be on the street in five years,” promised the late Rusty Selix, who was executive director of the Mental Health Assn. of California and a co-author of the ballot initiative, Proposition 63. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be homeless. But you will see a measurable decline.”

Since voters approved the tax in 2004, it has generated an escalating gusher of money — $29 billion in total, half of which has come in just the last five years.


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