According to a review by Daniel C. Vock of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline news service, state budgets could be hit hard with unfunded mandates should Congress pass the immigration bill currently being debated.
Vock outlined several areas where state budgets will likely groan under the weight of the reform bill.
Sheri Steisel, senior federal affairs counsel and a human services expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures, told Vock that the immigration bill will create “financial catastrophe for states and localities.” She continued, saying, “The states will end up with the cost and consequences of the federal decision-making, with very little resources to rely on to make up the difference.”
The bill does include a $50 million fund that states will compete for to help defray costs, but no funding is outlined for specific needs. This means that much of the cost of things like English classes and health care will be born by the states even as the bill is expected to bring up to 8 million illegals into the system.
Vock identifies several areas where rising costs will fall on the states.
The bill mandates that applicants learn English to take advantage of the new amnesty offering, so the states will have to create English instruction programs to facilitate that requirement. There is no specific funding in the bill to defray the costs of these classes.
An unforeseen cost, Vock says, will be the loss of tuition dollars as more students will qualify for in-state tuition. As more people become citizens, they and their children will qualify for the reduced rates for colleges and universities. Costs might be recouped a bit by hiking tuition for out-of-state students, but that can only go so far.
The biggest cost, though, is health care coverage.
The immigration bill, along with the new requirements imposed on the states by Obamacare, could cause an explosion in health care costs created by low-income and poor residents.
Most of these new citizens, it is feared, will be lower-income workers. Most will also work for small companies or will have only part time jobs and buying insurance will be difficult for them.
Currently, illegal immigrants don’t qualify for many state programs or for Medicaid, but once the amnesty bill is passed that will eventually change. This will throw millions of low-income patients onto the already over burdened state Medicaid systems.
As Vock notes, “State Medicaid systems help pick up the tab for those emergency room visits. States and localities also foot much of the bill for public hospitals or clinics, which could also see a surge of patients.”
Much of the costs that any new amnesty-styled immigration bill will levy on the states is unknown, but as details emerge it is clear that the financial consequences will be no small matter.