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.
I don't know if you noticed or not, but I am a rare Freeper who defends Hispanic immigrants, and your reply joins a small chorus that says I am racist. Shame on your chorus.
Life's ironies. If you only knew of my proud personal demographics . . . he . . . he . . .
Grapefruit/citrus is harvested once a year. It is seasonal work, other than disking the orchard of weeds and spraying for critters a couple of times a year.
I discussed pay and made an offer earlier that was not accepted. The contract has therefore returned to its former obligee. Thank you for inquiring.
Oh yes, some surely do, and I'm sure you agree it is terribly embarrassing that such an overwhelming number of white Americans lust for illicit drugs.
Thanks, pal. The Duke would be proud.
No sé si usted habla español o no; no importa. Apenas quisiera que usted supiera que los inmigrantes hispánicos sean la gente hermosa que merece respecto. Maldito poco se ha ofrecido en esta discusión. Eso me preocupa. Afortunadamente, tengo los medios de articular otra perspectiva a estos numbnuts.
Gonna stick with the cheap illegal labor again this year, huh? How suprising.
Wow, I'm convinced. Because some Americans lust for drugs, let's let more drug dealers in? Or overwhelm our country with socialistic programs we can't hope to pay for? That's some deep thinking you're doing there.
Hardly, but I love your passion.
Nobody makes money on citrus in south Texas anymore. Our orchard and crop acres are tended by a sharecropper; FWIW, with all the recent (and surprising) rain, he planted melons out back this year as a winter crop. They're boot heel tall as we speak. His job is to keep our property beautiful and tidy and at least break even.
My friend, it is our education, careers, hard work, and pursuit of perfection that keeps our family and land going. The result of which is that while my wife and I have a regrettably arguable claim to youth, life is already shake-your-head-and-sigh-because-it-is-so-dadgum-good good.
Texas and America. May other Hispanic immigrants (and Americans) so prosper.
(Aside: notice how the tread began with an issue and now has digressed to an individual with an offending perspective fending off personal attacks. Situation normal. Viva Free Republic!)
Your personal demographics wouldn't tell me a thing, you lumped all hispanics together which isn't something I would do and most that I know make a distinction between immigrants and US citizens and also which country they're from. I actually know few hispanics who prefer that descriptor ---most Mexicans from Mexico call themselves Mexican, US born descendents of them are Chicanos, most Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans, Americans of Spanish descent are Spanish-American or Spanish-American-Indian ---for a while they were using Hispanic and some still do but it seems most want Spanish-descended now.
I really get sick of the "race card" being thrown out when the issue is talked about. It ain't about race. It is about finite resources and our ability to pay for them.
Glad to see someone has figured all that out. Go ahead and let the good folk who fit your descriptors know.
And of course the dirt cheap wages you pay your illegal workers. Slightly more than they are paid in Mexico by the wealthy over there. Here the taxpayers can be soaked for the free education, free school lunches, WIC, free medical care and all the rest which allows you to pay as little as you possibly can. Makes it much harder of course for your more honest neighbors who might pay their employees legal wages and gasp! offer them health care benefits.
RainDog, enjoy your little self-induced blindness.You are indeed an enabler of the destruction of the USA by your self-centered and short sighted vision of fair market rules.Do you enjoy your status as "El Patrone" with the peasants?
I do not know you, but based on what you have posted, you seem to be mere inches away from advocating slave labor.It is a profitable endeavor.
Fortuneately, slavery is illegal in the USA.Soon, I hope to see you and employers like yourself, charged, convicted, and jailed under current existant labor laws.
You sir, are guilty of perpetuating a class of fearfull and poverty stricken serfs.Perhaps you would have been a Royalist, or a plantation owner, 100-300 years ago.Your reasoning so far, is in direct contradiction to the dreams and goals of freedom and respect for individual rights fought for by myself and my ancestors.
Continue to call "racist" all who call you a criminal extortionist of human misery.While I dream that our nation, supposedly based on the rule of law, will resolve this issue, I am certain God will sort us all out, eventually.
Oh, this is rich. I am loving this thread, philosophically and personally.
It is good enough, in fact, to keep me in and out of the house checking the thread amongst a barbeque (winter is canceled in these parts) and throwing fireworks (one of the many freedoms Texas provides) on New Year's Eve!
I must again defer to you the obvious expert, dear FITZ. Comparta por favor su sabiduría con las masas "huddled" pobres.