Today, Utah’s immigration copycat bill was supposed to get its first hearing before a state House Committee. However, it appears the hearing has been delayed due to concerns over a recent report which detailed the cost of enforcing the bill. NECN reports:
The sponsor of an Arizona-style immigration law in the Utah House is delaying a hearing on the bill because of the high price tag for enforcement. House Bill 70 was due for a committee hearing Wednesday afternoon. But it was removed from the agenda Wednesday morning.
Republican Rep. Stephen Sandstrom of Orem says in a statement the cost estimates for local law enforcement aren’t accurate. A fiscal note attached to the bill says the program would cost local government between $5 million and $11 million. Sandstrom says the fiscal note doesn’t account for savings generated by reducing the number of illegal immigrants. He says it also doesn’t consider how much money is being spent by local governments on crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
The article is referring to financial data released by the Legislative Fiscal Analysts office this past Monday. According to the office, “the expense of his legislation would range between $5.3 million and $11.3 million.” After the news came out, the bill’s sponsor — state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom (R) — started scrambling to find solutions which might help offset the costs.
One proposal Sandstrom is reportedly mulling is imposing a one-percent fee on wire transfers from non-citizens in Utah to a foreign country. Yet, if Sandstrom actually succeeds in driving undocumented immigrants out of his state, he may have trouble raising any significant amount of money from that initiative. Another idea involves levying a fee on the existing driving privilege card, something which is mostly used by the undocumented immigrants he hopes will leave his state.
Meanwhile, the estimated cost doesn’t seem that far-fetched. If anything, it’s low-ball. I previously reported on a Kentucky fiscal-impact statement which estimated that an Arizona copycat law would cost the state a net $40 million a year in court, prison and foster-care costs. That estimate did include savings from removing undocumented immigrants from the state.
Finally, neither of these reports included what the states will lose in the form of lost tax revenue and business activity. A 2008 study estimated that, if Utah successfully removed all of its undocumented immigrants, it would lose $2.3 billion in economic activity, $1.0 billion in gross state product, and approximately 14,219 jobs.
Sandstrom claims that the hearing was cancelled so he could make some last-minute changes that will supposedly lower the cost. He hasn’t disclosed the changes, however, he did indicate that they have “already been run up the flagpole” with groups such as the Utah Minutemen and Kris Kobach’s Immigration Reform Law Institute.