The following editorial by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean was published by the Star-Ledger on February 17, 2017:
Sen. Tom Kean said that towns that declare themselves sanctuaries from federal immigration law enforcement should bear the financial consequences of their actions. (Wikimedia Commons)
As the New Jersey Senate debated a pair of symbolic resolutions on immigration last week, a new bill that has the potential to devastate our state budget and cause unbelievable harm to New Jersey taxpayers was introduced by Senate Democrats with little fanfare.
This new legislation, S3007, follows a proposal floated by President Trump to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement efforts.
The president’s proposal has yet to become actual federal policy or law.
Still, Democrats in the state Senate rushed forward with an ill-conceived response which would require the state to reimburse local governments for the loss of any federal funds resulting from their status as a sanctuary jurisdiction.
Our concern with S3007 centers on the great cost that may result from this reckless bill. We worry about the harm it could cause to hard-working New Jersey families that already struggle to get by in our extremely expensive state.
The potential impact of this legislation on our friends and neighbors is beyond immense.
According to the New Jersey budget, municipalities in the state are expected to receive $15.7 billion in federal funds this fiscal year.
That $15.7 billion in federal funding is on top of the $34.5 billion in state funds that’s collected from New Jersey taxpayers and appropriated through our budget.
If the proposed federal policy is enacted, the Senate Democrats’ legislation would require New Jersey taxpayers to pick up the cost of any portion of that $15.7 billion in expected federal funding that is withheld.
While that full multibillion scenario may be remote, S3007 could require the New Jersey budget to increase by up to 45 percent, depending on the affected municipalities.
As we’ve seen with recent budget crises, the state has an extremely limited ability to absorb unanticipated expenses or revenue shortfalls of much smaller amounts.
If faced with that reality, which state taxes will Senate Democrats propose to increase to cover the multibillion dollar expense they’ve created? What vital programs will they cut?
We don’t know, because they’ve attempted to move the bill from introduction to a full Senate vote in just a week, bypassing the standard vetting process that other bills go through of committee hearings and public debate.
In their rush to make a political statement, Senate Democrats have failed to put together a financial statement explaining their bill’s massive potential cost.
Generally, we require a fiscal note providing lawmakers with the critical information they need to understand the cost and consequences of any bill that might impact the state budget. That’s true if its $1,000 or $1 billion.
In this case, Democrats are looking to rubber stamp a potential $15 billion impact on the state budget without any such analysis. That’s outrageous.
Last year, the gas tax debate consumed much of the Legislature’s activity. The concern over that $1.2 billion generated significantly more public engagement than many other issues before the Legislature.
This bill could have a dozen times the cost, yet we haven’t held a single legislative hearing. We haven’t taken any public testimony. That, too, is outrageous.
Quite simply, the Senate Democrats’ proposal is blind to the crisis of affordability that New Jersey residents struggle with every day.
When state lawmakers should be focused on cutting taxes and securing our fair share of federal funding, this proposal encourages towns to leave scarce federal dollars on the table at the expense of overburdened taxpayers.
State law should not encourage such fiscal irresponsibility.
If a local government voluntarily declares itself a sanctuary from federal immigration law enforcement, they alone should bear the financial consequences of their actions. Other state taxpayers should be spared.
That’s why all 16 Senate Republicans oppose this bill.
Thankfully, with one of their members absent from Monday’s Senate session, the Democratic majority didn’t have enough votes to fast-track the passage of the bill.
The Senate Democratic leadership, however, has vowed to post the bill for a vote at an upcoming session when all of their members are present.
New Jersey taxpayers still have the opportunity to convince Senate Democrats to reconsider their support for this potential $15 billion expense.
To have your voice heard, contact your legislators and tell them to vote ‘no’ on S3007.
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