Two Republican legislators have requested an audit of the billions raised by the Proposition 63 tax on wealthy Californians to pay for mental health services.
The request came late in the session, and the committee that decides whether to order audits is not scheduled to meet until a new Legislature is sworn in. But the Democratic-controlled Legislature should find a way to meet this request.
Over the years, there have been many accounts of Proposition 63 money being misspent. The issue is too important to let slide.
The Associated Press recently reported that tens of millions of dollars had been spent on people who don't suffer from mental illness. AP cited instances in which money was spent on yoga and gardening.
Last year, the San Jose Mercury News reported that some counties shut down mental health clinics, while using some of the $7.4 billion generated by the Proposition 63 tax since its passage in 2004 to fund "a cottage industry of consultants earning up to $200 an hour, as well as a host of new programs that in many cases are only loosely linked to prevention, treatment and recovery."
Assemblymen Dan Logue of Marysville and Brian Nestande of Palm Desert requested that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee approve the audit.
To his credit, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Proposition 63's author, said Thursday he would welcome an audit.
Steinberg believes the vast majority of the money has been well spent. He noted the gardening program cited by AP, for example, was designed to attract Hmong immigrants who may need mental health care but for cultural reasons wouldn't seek help.
Steinberg says 30,000 severely mentally ill individuals statewide are receiving intensive care as a result of Proposition 63 programs.
Without a doubt, Proposition 63 has funded many important programs. On Thursday, for example, another 15 cops completed a four-day training program in Yolo County, learning how to calm mentally ill individuals without resorting to deadly force. Altogether, 180 officers have gone through the training, thanks to a $50,000 grant.
The need for care remains, as is obvious when we see deeply disturbed people sleeping under underpasses or wandering the streets of any city in this state.
The Bee opposed Proposition 63 when it was on the ballot in 2004, concerned that it would lock in a tax for a single purpose. But voters approved it. The Legislature needs to make sure the money is being properly spent.