Prop. 1 May Fail, Saving Mental Health Care, but Damaging Gov. Newsom

- Governor's Campaign Raised $20 Million - All Wasted

- Poorly Drafted Initiative Disregarded Negative Impacts on Mental Health Services

- Opponents Label Results 'Rusty's Revenge' After MH Leader Rusty Selix

SACRAMENTO, March 6 – Gov. Gavin Newsom's lavishly funded and grandiose Proposition 1 could be headed to defeat at the hands of California voters. The measure stood at just 50.2% support as of 3:00AM, having shed almost 3% in support as votes were tallied throughout the night. The outcome will be uncertain for some time, but it is not looking good for Prop. 1.

"Prop. 1 was a monumental mistake, from its conception to its campaign," said Paul Simmons, a director of Californians Against Proposition 1. "Gov. Newsom may now face one of his worst public defeats ever, failing at time when he's been auditioning for a greater role nationally."

Gov. Newsom collected at least $20 million into the campaign account for Prop. 1. Opponents only recently reached $2,000 in contributions, relying instead on a grassroots network of mental health care providers and advocates to get the word out.

Simmons said, "It seems that all the money in the world can't sell a bad idea, and Prop. 1 was a bad idea. They had goals to improve some public services, but to do it, they would cut existing mental health care, and likely make the problem worse. That's what made Prop. 1 inexcusable and, ultimately, unpopular enough to potentially fail."

Prop. 1 called for redirecting revenue from a special 1% surcharge on income over $1 million that was created in 2004 by Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act. Prop. 1 would have doubled the state's share of that revenue, put the state in charge instead of counties and chopped at least 30% of local funds from mental health to different services.

Simmons continued, "When voters passed the Mental Health Services Act 20 years ago, they meant what they said. They wanted a dedicated revenue source for community-based mental health care services. If Prop. 1 is defeated, that would be voters saying, for the second time, 'HANDS OFF!'"

In 2009, during a budget crisis, the Legislature proposed to seize half the revenues of the voter-approved MHSA to fill the shortfall, in a measure known as Proposition 1E. Voters rejected the idea handily, by more than 2-to-1.

'Rusty's Revenge'

The 2004 ballot measure that created the MHSA was co-authored by Darrell Steinberg, now mayor of Sacramento and then an Assembly member, and Rusty Selix, a tireless and visionary advocate for mental health care. Many local-level mental health program administrators and advocates today recognize Selix's role as central to the design and implementation of the MHSA as a locally based, innovative program that helped create a robust system of mental health care across California.

Selix passed away in 2019. Mayor Steinberg this year has put himself out this as a lead advocate for Prop. 1, sometimes neglecting to mention his co-author Selix's pivotal role in the creation of the MHSA and the system that has grown up in its wake.

Simmons, who worked closely with Selix for years, said, "We knew from the get-go that Rusty would have said 'hell no' to Prop. 1. You don't dismantle a system like this and cut people off from care to try to help the governor polish his reputation. We would see the defeat of Prop. 1 as Rusty's Revenge."

"This is not abstract for us," Simmons said. "Many of us as Prop. 1 opponents work in the system and know intimately the chaos that the governor's plan would have caused. It would be glorious and righteous to see Prop. 1 defeated."

Mental Health Community Was Disrespected, Fought Prop. 1

Simmons said there were three main motives behind the mental health community's opposition to Prop. 1:

1) Cuts to locally based programs (estimated at up to 40-50% cuts in mental health services locally)

2) State takeover versus local control, overturning the MHSA model

3) Conversion of the MHSA to a more coercive system, with more "forced" treatment and locked facilities

Legislative deliberations on two bills that became Prop. 1 (AB 531 and SB 326) were characterized by rushed, secretive processes and the freezing out of many local care providers and peer supporters. The community viewed the governor's and legislators' dismissal of their concerns as a profound disrespect for the services they provide, inspiring many to provide energy for the opposition to Prop. 1.

In its first statement on Prop. 1, in Oct. 2023, Californians Against Proposition 1 said the measure's authors "might have achieved true consensus on this measure if they had not so crassly attacked the funding lifeline that so many programs depend on today, or introduced forced treatment into the bill at the last minute. Our community sees, hears and feels this as disrespect, and we fear for our bodily autonomy and freedom."

Simmons concluded, "We have said for weeks that if Prop. 1 goes down, the reasons why would all come down to poor strategy and decision-making by the governor. He and his group made many strategic mistakes. But perhaps the most important was to disrespect the MHSA and the broader community of peers and providers. We have a principle in this community: 'Nothing about us, without us.' Maybe now the governor will hear."


Californians Against Proposition 1 is a broad, nonpartisan coalition of people, including those who provide and receive local and statewide mental health services. We are concerned with the many issues raised by the proposition, from the bond itself to the many complex changes to the state’s system of delivery of services to vulnerable, and often marginalized, populations.

Californians Against Proposition 1 • FPPC ID# 1465428 • PO Box 875, Lotus, CA 95651 • (530) 298-7995 • [email protected]