Skip to comments.Immigration and Texas' Budget Crisis: The Elephant in the Room
Posted on 12/30/2002 5:37:04 AM PST by SJackson
The coming session of the Texas Legislature has been billed as "the perfect storm" because of the looming $5 to $12 billion-dollar budget shortfall. Although the evidence suggests that immigration, both legal and illegal, is fueling the rapid growth in state spending on social services, this issue is almost entirely absent from the debate.
It is well established that recent immigrants use more in services than they pay in taxes, particularly to state and local governments. The National Research Council, a branch of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, estimates the net fiscal cost of immigration ranges from $11 billion to $22 billion per year, with most government expenditures on immigrants coming from state and local coffers, while most taxes paid by immigrants go to the federal treasury. This is the result of the relatively low level of tax payments by immigrants, because they are disproportionately low-skilled and thus earn low wages, and a higher rate of consumption of government services, both because of their relative poverty and their higher fertility.
According to 2000 U.S. Census data, some 13.2 percent of immigrants enroll in welfare programs compared with 2.1 percent of native-born Americans. In Medicaid, 18.6 percent of immigrants participate, as opposite 12.1 percent of native-born. Mexican immigrants, who comprise the vast majority of immigrants to Texas, use food stamps at nearly twice the rate of native-born Americans and collect an average welfare payment that is 20 percent higher than those recipients.
The National Research Council found that in California, which has endured a similar flood of Mexican immigration as Texas, each native household is paying about $1,178 a year in state and local taxes to cover the gap between the services used by immigrant households and their tax receipts. Although Texas was not included in this study, there is no reason to think the reality is any different here.
Indeed, during the last three years, the Harris County Hospital District alone spent $330 million to treat and immunize illegal immigrants, estimated to be at least 20 percent of their indigent caseload. The District covers this expense through its escalating tax burden on local taxpayers and through cost-shifting to Medicaid and insured patients. The District provides not only emergency care to illegal immigrants, but also a full range of elective services, even access to its fertility clinic that is not included in the health plan for District employees. While the 700,000 illegal immigrants in Texas are only eligible for welfare if they have worked for at least ten years or received asylum, they receive free health care, food stamps, education, and nearly all other government services.
In 2002, Medicaid represented 22.6% of Texas' budget. That number is expected to increase to 23.7% in 2003 in the wake of an August 19 report by the Health and Human Services Commission concluding that, because of higher-than-planned growth in caseloads, the state's Medicaid and children's health insurance programs will cost $2.4 billion more in the next budget cycle than in the current one. Since 1987, the Texas Medicaid budget has grown 500 percent, due in large part to increased enrollment, much of it undoubtedly the result of immigration.
The growth in state health care spending is just one example of how immigration is contributing to the budget shortfall. All of the school districts in South Texas receive Robin Hood recapture payments. Although these districts would likely be poor regardless of current levels of immigration, they would not be experiencing such large growth in their enrollments. It is this growth that is responsible for the budget crises in both urban and suburban districts that are being forced to send more and more of their local tax revenues to the state, leaving them unable to meet the needs of their own students.
Immigration is also a major factor in the population growth that is responsible for growing traffic congestion and pollution in Texas' major cities.
Ultimately, the Legislature's sensitivity to public opinion is likely to forestall a general tax increase this session, but that may come at the expense of vital funding for transportation and higher education, as well as Robin Hood relief. Unfortunately, even though the state bears most of the cost of immigration, it is virtually powerless to control it because it is the constitutional responsibility of the federal government.
Until Washington fortifies border enforcement to stop illegal immigration and reduces the number of unskilled legal immigrants, Texans will pay for the consequences, whether in higher taxes or the crowding out of important government services. While immigrants continue to contribute much to Texas and the nation, if we attempt to absorb all of the many millions of indigent people throughout the world, we will sacrifice the very quality of life that has led so many people to come here.
Chris Allen is State Chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas (www.yct.org) and a graduate student at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
We are spiraling into personal jabs and countermeasures. Silly stuff. Let's return to the point in chief: are Hispanic immigrants good or bad for the American economy? What is the human capital/concern, short term and long?
I believe the market pulls these immigrants in-- and so they must be welcome, one way or another. Others say they cost too much and should be deported if possible or denied services if not.
I have obviously simplified both arguments, but might we re-engage them and leave me out of it?
Enjoy your life.Pay no attention to that guy behind the curtain...none of your actions have any real repercussions after all....
No, no, please do not feel that way. Engage the issue instead of me.
You appear to have a personal monetary vested issue in abrogating the labor and immigration laws of the USA.You do not seem capable of clarity on the "issues" of illegal immigrants vs your own profit margins, clearly enhanced by the flouting of existant labor laws and exploiting illegal immigrants.
I am fully aware of "guest worker" laws regarding foreign farm workers.I am also aware of the attempts made by many legal migrant workers groups to enforce US fair labor laws.
You admitted your culpability when in a previous post, you proudly claimed you "hired" your field hands through an "agency" who you knew employed illegal aliens(slave labor).
God save us all if we are reduced to defending our own actions based on legal technicalities as compared with what we all know is the intent of law.
Did you pass that mirror yet?
Do you still think YOU, and people just like you, are not the issue?I submit you are not only deluded, you are a major part of the problem.You cloak your reasons for importing slave labor under the halo of "free" commerce.The rest of us are forced to pay for your ignorance and self-serving rationalisations.
Go back to your bar-B-que.Enjoy yourself and your rather unsavory lifestyle while you can.
Avoid mirrors at all cost!
You're the one bragging about hiring slave labor. It's people like you in Mexico who are the reason for 80% being "huddled masses". Maybe if your type paid decent wages back home there wouldn't be 20 million illegals fleeing their homeland. The upper class in Mexico should be very very ashamed and they should be ashamed when they come here too.
Yes I can see that ---he's getting rich, and to his type that's ALL that matters. Not the taxes the others must pay to subsidize his cheap labor ---but in reality just like in Mexico, that kind doesn't much care if their cheap labor gets health care or education or anything else. It's clear why Mexico and other hispanic cultures are a big unstable mess ---it's that attitude of the elites and we certainly don't need it here.
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