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$2 Billion Bond Measure on California Ballot to House the Mentally Ill Homeless

The revenue bonds would be funded from a millionaires' surtax, approved by voters in 2004, to pay for health programs, but not housing, for the mentally ill. Also on ballot: a $4 billion general obligation bond measure to fund housing for veterans.
July 2, 2018, 2pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Homeless in Washington, D.C.

"Gov. Jerry Brown (D) authorized the ballot measure Wednesday when he signed the state’s annual budget and related legislation," reports Liam Dillon for the Los Angeles Times on June 27.

The measure would draw funding from dollars generated by Proposition 63, a 1% income tax surcharge on millionaires passed in 2004 that funds mental health services. Housing built or rehabilitated under the plan would be designated for mentally ill residents living on the streets.

The measure is aptly named the "Use Millionaire's Tax Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Housing Bonds Measure," a legislatively-referred state statute authorized by the passage of Assembly Bill 1827.

The legislature had attempted to authorize the use of $2 billion from Prop. 63 two years ago, reported Gale Holland for The Times on Jan. 4, 2016.

The new units would operate on a "housing first" model, taking in homeless people with mental illness and drug and alcohol problems even if they refuse psychiatric or substance abuse treatment, officials said.

The “No Place Like Home” initiative, Assembly Bill 1618 by Sen. Kevin De Léon (D-L.A.), passed the legislature (posted here) and was signed into law by Gov. Brown on July 1, 2016, but funding was never authorized. "[A] Sacramento attorney and mental health advocates challenged the effort in court, arguing that the money shouldn’t be diverted from treatment programs and that legislators needed a vote of the people to authorize the funds," adds Dillon. 

Using the Prop. 63 revenue stream for housing may mean less funding for county programs serving the mentally ill. "Some of the $400 million in Proposition 63 money [Los Angeles County] received [in 2016]  goes to housing, but it also funds a range of mental health services, including crisis intervention and transition programs for people coming out of locked psychiatric facilities," wrote Holland.

"That case is still in litigation and the November ballot measure, if successful, would free up the money," adds Dillon.

$4 billion for veterans' housing

Unlike the homelessness housing bond measure, a revenue bond measure, the California Housing Loans, Grants, and Programs and Veterans' Loans Bond, a legislatively referred bond act, has no revenue stream of its own, so it is a general obligation bond measure. The measure stems from Senate Bill 3 by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), one of a broad package of housing bills that were signed into law last year by Gov. Brown to address the state's chronic housing crisis.

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Published on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Los Angeles Times
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