Arizona is getting off to a very bad start in 2010. It is flat broke. Drastic actions are necessary to save the state from total fiscal collapse. Governor Janice K. Brewer has actually dared mention the unmentionable: doing something about the costs of illegal immigration.
Warnings of impending disaster came on the first day of 2010. Tucson News Channel 13 had the dire news (there is a video report also):
"A massive education payment is expected to drain state resources down to zero. What happens next will affect anyone who works for or with state government. It's what happens when you run out of money. You can't pay your bills."[Arizona could be weeks away from going broke, Jan 01, 2010, by Barbara Grijalva]
Blogger and radio host Dave Levine wasn't impressed with the Ch13 news article because it evaded the illegal immigration issue. Levine fired back with this:
"This is a whitewash! I don't mean the title of the story or the fact that a bankrupt Arizona is imminent. I mean, the writer—who may very well be related to pro-illegal alien activist Congressman Raul Grijalva—doesn't even mention the words 'illegal aliens' when talking about Arizona's impending bankruptcy. As many law and order conservatives know, only a portion of the 30 to 40 million illegal aliens [VDARE.com note: We think Levine's guess at the number is too high, but most such guesses are too low.] in the U.S. pay state and Federal taxes. Why? Because many of them work under the table."[Arizona Could Be Just Weeks Away From Going Broke (our thanks to americanpatrol.com for posting this). Posted by The Dave Levine Show on January 2, 2010]
As an Arizonan, I was naturally intrigued. So on the first business day of the new year, Monday, January 4th, I called the Arizona State Treasurer's office to find out when exactly my state government would run out of money.
What I discovered was deeply disturbing—the Arizona treasury was already completely drained of funds as of January 1, 2010.
The entire state fund had been used to fund the state's education system for one month.
At the time I talked to them, no money was left to pay for anything else!
Imaginatively, on January 6, 2010 State Treasurer Dean Martin sent Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano a bill for $1 billion to compensate Arizona for the costs of incarcerating criminal illegal aliens (press release and invoice).
Ironically, as you can see from the invoice, Treasurer Martin is doing nothing more than sending the same request that Napolitano, when Governor of Arizona, had made to the US Attorney General in 2008.
After Dean Martin sent the invoice to Napolitano, the MainStream Media ridiculed the request as a publicity stunt to jump start his campaign for governor:
"Martin denied that Wednesday's press conference was a bid to gain publicity for his 2010 campaign, whether for governor or another term as treasurer." [Martin wants feds to pay for jailed illegals, by Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services January 6, 2010]
They remain in denial about the urgency of Arizona's fiscal crisis.
(Napolitano and Dean Martin have been butting heads over the state budget for quite awhile. A year ago, before she left to be the DHS secretary, an argument broke out between them at a meeting of the State Loan Commission. Napolitano angrily stomped out of the meeting without addressing Martin's questions. It was a childish moment for Napolitano—and very ominous for the fiscal future of Arizona. Read the story here and watch the TV12 video here.)
Napolitano hasn't yet responded to Martin's request. But even if the federal government agrees to pay the full bill, Arizona will still not be able to balance its budget.
Some experts, for example University of Arizona economist Marshall Vest, think it's now too late for spending cuts and that taxes will have to be raised. He says:
"The budget gap cannot be closed through spending cuts alone. K-12 education spending totals roughly $4 billion, Medicaid and health $2 billion, community colleges and universities $1.3 billion, prisons $1 billion, $700 million for welfare, and $1 billion for everything else. Health-related spending is mandated either by the federal government or voters, K-12 is formula-driven and voter-mandated, and federal stimulus dollars for K-12 and higher education are subject to 'maintenance of effort' clauses that limit further cuts without forfeiting federal dollars.
UA Economist Marshall Vest: State Budget Crisis "Looks To Be Unsolvable", by Jim Nintzel, The Tucson Weekly, Dec. 14, 2009.
Of course, Vest could be expected to claim schools can't be shut down, since he is employed by a school. Vest completely failed to mention that in 2003 FAIR estimated that Arizona spent almost $1 billion dollars to educate illegal aliens, and the citizen children of illegals. In 2004, Virginia Abernethy estimated the tab to be at least $1.25 billion. (The East Valley Tribune story reporting this estimate wasn't titled "Illegals Rip Off Arizona Schools For $$$", but Migrant foe tied to racism.)
In total, the federal government owes Arizona over $2 billion just to compensate the state for the illegal alien impact on prisons and schools. That is a lot of money—but it doesn't include the various other unfunded mandates that burdens Arizona, such as emergency health care for illegal aliens, or for the infrastructure costs they require.
To put this in perspective: illegal immigration could amount to at least half of Arizona's budget deficit! ($1 billion for prisons, $1 billion for schools—the deficit is estimated at $4.5 billion. Yes, these are big round numbers—it's that kind of problem.)
This warning from Governor Janice K. Brewer's January 11 State of the State address makes the problem unusually clear:
"The biggest external threat to our budget comes from the federal government — oppressive health care mandates, job-killing environmental restrictions, and continual refusal to pay for costs associated with illegal immigration." [My emphasis]
The Governor said she would publish her own budget plan on Friday. It will no doubt rely on the professional politicians' preferred solution to everything: raise taxes. But she added "the suggestion box is wide open".
It is? Well, here are my suggestions.
As an Arizonan, I believe there are solutions to Arizona's budget woes that don't require tax increases or severe benefit cuts to our poor and needy.
If the people of Arizona apply common sense to solve the crisis, and they are willing to make some tough choices, the budget crisis can at least be forestalled.
They will be put in buses and given a free ride to Washington DC. The buses could drop them off right in front of the White House.
Arizona will gladly let the federal government decide what to do with these illegal aliens, who have been jailed for crimes such as murder, rape, theft, drug dealing, human smuggling, etc. But Arizona can no longer shoulder the burden of jailing these criminals until the federal government gives full compensation.
The billion dollars saved from vacating prisons will allow the state to run for several months.
Students will take an extended vacation during the beautiful winter season (hurray!) until the budget issue is resolved. When school re-opens the students can make up the time in a summer session. In the meantime Arizona students will get a valuable lesson on budgets and economics.
Once that number is determined, and a list is made of who they are, all of the illegal alien students will be cut from the school rolls.
Nothing new will be required in terms of documentation to determine which students are in the schools illegally. Schools are already supposed to require proof of residency and a valid birth certificate in order to enroll. They know who the illegal aliens are—the ones who are literally "undocumented"!
Reduced enrollments will allow for the closing of unnecessary schools and the consolidation of redundant resources. Additional funds could be raised as newly-vacated school yards are sold for other purposes, such as shopping malls or for industrial uses—or maybe to build more homes and parks!
Sadly, many teachers and administrators will lose their jobs as facilities close. It is imperative that the first employees to be pink-slipped will be those on temporary work visas like H-1B. No American should lose their job until every single non-citizen worker has been fired first.
If, after all of those steps, the budget cuts still don't balance the budget, then we should look at the problem of "anchor babies" (children whose parents are illegal—but who are regarded as citizens under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment). If legislation or litigation cannot resolve this problem quickly enough, maybe the illegal alien parents should be persuaded go home, and take their children with them.
Without a doubt, eliminating illegal aliens from our schools will invite legal challenges—probably all the way to the Supreme Court.
But the cost of the lawyers to defend Arizona's actions would be far less than the cost of educating students who don't belong in the United States anyway.
Once the schools clean out the illegal aliens, they can be re-opened.
Or, of course, Arizona could just send a billion dollar bill to the US Secretary of Education.
But this can't happen until Arizona educational bureaucrats are willing to be honest about the number of illegal aliens in our schools. So far, they have resisted transparency.
For example, my local Kyrene School District claims that transparency on budget issues is one of its policy goals. But when it comes to the cost of illegal immigration it obfuscates the issue.
I found out just how stubborn and evasive the bureaucrats can be when, with another concerned citizen, I confronted the school board on two different occasions to find out how many illegal aliens attend Kyrene schools. The board stonewalled me us on this basic question of fact.
The superintendent of the governing board didn't answer my questions but instead passed the buck by requesting that I send a letter to their lawyer, Janis Merill. She responded with vague answers and innuendo. She used Plyler vs. Doe to justify the secrecy but never explained specifically how, and made vague references to other Arizona laws.
Plyler vs. Doe is the notorious Supreme Court ruling that is widely interpreted as requiring school districts to educate illegal aliens—but it doesn't prevent schools from counting the number of illegals.
My reading of the decision: it doesn't necessarily forbid states from denying educations to illegal aliens as long as the state can come up with a better reason than Texas used to cut illegal students. Preventing bankruptcy is a pretty compelling argument. The case must be re-argued as soon as possible.
The Kyrene School Board and their lawyer illustrate why Arizona needs SB1172—a bill sponsored by state representative Russell Pearce requiring schools to tabulate the number of illegal alien students.
Last year Pearce's bill passed the Senate Education Committee but stalled in the Senate Rules Committee. The bill never made it to the House, perhaps due to pressure from the ACLU who threatened to sue Arizona if the bill passed:
"The 4-2 vote by the Senate Committee on Education Accountability and Reform came even after an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said it would violate federal law. Alessandra Meetze said if lawmakers SB 1172 into law, her group will sue.
"'Let them sue,' responded Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who crafted the legislation." [Senate bill would ask student immigration status, By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, June 24, 2009, June 24, 2009]
Russell Pearce plans to re-introduce the bill this year. But it won't be in time to save the state from economic catastrophe.
The plan I suggest might sound draconian. But there will be far more suffering and angst if something isn't done very quickly to balance the state budget. The way things are going, the schools will have to close anyway—it will be just a matter of time.
Proposals to sell state-owned buildings and to resort to accounting flim-flam are at best a short-term solution to stay afloat.
Even if President Obama, or the tooth fairy, bail out Arizona's schools, the problem won't go away. Free education encourages more illegal aliens to attend our schools. The resulting increases in the number of students perpetuate the problem and are ultimately unsustainable—it's a just particular case of America's overall post-1965 immigration disaster.
We Arizonans need to close the schools—and dump our criminal aliens on Obama's doorstep—NOW!
Rob Sanchez (email him) is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization and author of the "Job Destruction Newsletter" (sign up for it here) at www.JobDestruction.com. To make a tax-deductible donation to Rob Sanchez, click here.