State Net Capitol Journal – August 5, 2013; Budgets and Taxes

State Net Capitol Journal – August 5, 2013; Budgets and Taxes

Budget & Taxes

US SENATE IMMIGRATION BILL COULD BE COSTLY FOR STATES: The immigration overhaul passed last month by the U.S. Senate doesn't do much to help states cover the costs they would incur in making the policy changes the bill mandates, including ramping up English classes and expanding access to public hospitals and health clinics.

The measure allocates $50 million for state grants to help immigrants become citizens and money to offset states' costs for housing illegal immigrants, but it provides no major aid for states. By comparison, the last major federal immigration reform bill in 1986 included $4 billion in funding for states, 80 times the amount included in the new bill even before adjusting for inflation.

"Potentially, we are going to create a financial catastrophe for states and localities," said Sheri Steisel, senior federal affairs counsel for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The states will end up with the cost and consequences of the federal decision-making, with very little resources to rely on to make up the difference."

What was different about this year's immigration bill is that the Senate drafted it after several tough fights over federal spending. But the issue could be moot since U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said his chamber won't take up the Senate's proposal and will work on separate bills covering different aspects of immigration reform instead. Some of those smaller measures could still impose costs on states and localities, however. (STATELINE.ORG)

US-MEXICO BORDER DELAY DISPUTE: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says it needs more than 3,800 new officers to eliminate the long lines at U.S.-Mexico border crossings that cost American businesses millions of dollars each year from shipping delays. But the Government Accountability Office questions the need for so many additional customs officers on top of the nearly 22,000 existing ones, noting that three of the six major border crossings its auditors visited were fully staffed. The GAO also said the federal border agency hasn't fully explained how it determined the number of officers needed at each crossing. (STATELINE.ORG)

BUDGETS IN BRIEF: More than 5 million people would lose their eligibility for food stamps under proposed cuts expected to be taken up again by Congress, according to a report from the Health Impact Project, a Washington research group. A U.S. House farm bill that included $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, failed to pass in June (NEW YORK TIMES). • Representatives for the NBA Players Association, the NHL Players' Association and the Memphis Grizzlies appeared at a legislative hearing last month on TENNESSEE's "jock tax," a $2,500-per-game surcharge levied on professional basketball and hockey players. The tax has become a major gripe among NBA and NHL players not only because it's the highest in the United States and Canada but also because the proceeds from it go to team owners and because some players at the bottom of the leagues' pay scales end up paying more in taxes than they earn in wages when they play in Tennessee (TENNESSEAN [NASHVILLE]). • FLORIDA is forcing some of the nation's biggest life insurance companies to hand over death benefits from nearly 96,000 unclaimed policies, in connection with the settlement agreements the companies reached with the state and others in 2011-12, after regulators accused them of failing to crosscheck the names of deceased policyholders against a Social Security file to locate and pay surviving beneficiaries. But most of the unclaimed benefits are worth less than $1,000 each, according to a state Department of Financial Services database, because they were sold as low-value industrial policies decades ago (TAMPA BAY TIMES). • CONNECTICUT's pension programs earned an average of 11.5 percent on their investments last fiscal year, according to state Treasurer Denise L. Nappier. The return added $2.8 billion in market value to the pension funds (CONNECTICUT MIRROR [HARTFORD]).

- Compiled by KOREY CLARK

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