Monday, January 7, 2008

What Can Flemington Afford?

"The true test of the first- rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time." F. Scott Fitzgerald

All college students and their families would surely like tuition relief. We were surely one of them. The Greiner family did not see any expensive vacations or furniture, well, for years as we scrimped and saved to send our daughters to a state college. So I sympathize with the intentions of those state legislators who sponsored bills S78 and A4032, the intent of which is to allow illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates ( Is this fiscally sound or fair?

Perhaps I am putting the cart before the horse. It is hard to argue that educating our residents, legal or illegal, is anything less than good for our society. Perhaps these state legislators are begging the more general question--- what indeed should be our illegal immigration policy, statewide or nationwide? One almost immediately sees the strangeness of this question. Why do we need any illegal immigration policy? Illegal immigration is, well, illegal. But most of us are aware that the issue is far more complex. With respect to economics, there are, let’s say, short- term immigration issues and long- term immigration issues. Short- term issues are about the financial realities of the here and now. Long-term issues are about the financial realities down the road. “The Economist” , a weekly British publication, for years has argued in favor of the long- term economic benefits of immigration in America. Their line of reasoning maintains the increased population will mean more contributors down the road to our Social Security and Medicare programs. This is as opposed to the problem of the dwindling populations in Europe. European nations have fewer and fewer contributors to their far more expansive social benefit programs.

Roughly we see at least three classes of immigrants---Those who seek political asylum, those who are highly trained and migrate in order to work in the country with the greatest opportunity for technological advancement and those who are unskilled but are attracted by our newly expansive welfare and social benefits, not available during the influx of immigrants one hundred years ago. Those who are highly trained are high wage earners. The high wage earners result in net fiscal benefit for America. Those who are unskilled are the low wage earners. The low age wage earners result in a net deficit for the states they immigrate to.

Note the following information…“Based on federal, state, and local government expenditures and tax receipts, the NRC (National Research Council) estimated that the short-run fiscal impact of immigration was negative in both New Jersey and California. In New Jersey, using data for 1989–1990, immigrant households received an average net fiscal transfer from natives of $1,500, or 3 percent of average state immigrant household income. Spread among the more numerous state native populations, this amounted to an average net fiscal burden of $230 per native household, or 0.4 percent of average state native household income. In California, using data for 1994–95, immigrant households received an average net fiscal transfer of $3,500, or 9 percent of average immigrant household income, which resulted in an average fiscal burden on native households of $1,200, or 2 percent of average native household income. The impact of immigration on California is more negative because immigrant households in the state (a) are more numerous relative to the native population, (b) have more children, causing them to make greater use of public education, and (c) earn lower incomes, leading them to have lower tax payments and greater use of public assistance. For the nation as a whole, the NRC estimated that in 1996 immigration imposed a short-run fiscal burden on the average U.S. native household of $200, or 0.2 percent of U.S. GDP. “
(Excerpt From “Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration” by Gordon Hanson, Council on Foreign Relations, Council Special Report #26, April 2007 pp 22-23

In 1989-1990 NJ already was running at an additional $230 net fiscal burden per native household. With our burgeoning immigration population, what is it today? Anyone have any more recent figures?

Those who are concerned about the illegal immigration issue are often manipulated out of the discussion, accused of being racist. So with respect to this very serious issue, we are often coerced to dance rather than reason and resolve. Crossing America’s borders and entering without legal documentation is an illegal act. Numerous immigrants all over the world who want access to America have equally numerous stories of hardship. I am second generation American of Polish and Russian heritage. I know firsthand why immigrants kiss American soil.

We in Flemington are absorbing what we believe to be a significant, questionably legal population. We are out of land and have no room to expand. Our infrastructure, laid out years ago to serve a certain size population is being heavily utilized. Our apartments are meant to hold a certain number of renters. We have a fixed income senior population, folks who have lived here all their lives and should not be forced to move away due to rising property taxes to cover the school expense incurred by in influx of illegal immigrants. We have NJ citizens, paying their way, who would like to live here but cannot afford to due to housing prices and property taxes while illegal immigrants are living here and utilizing services they do not fully support financially.

People, children, public services cost money. This is why we have to take seriously the legality of immigration. How many can we accommodate here and how much does it cost? Cost is just one issue regarding the immigration question. This is by no means the end of the discussion and cost perhaps should not be the sole determining factor in guiding immigration policy. But it is a practical issue in the sense that we need to live I within our means. We cannot just throw all caution to the wind.Long time Flemington residents, who have built and carried the Boro financially throughout their lifetimes, on fixed incomes need to be taken into account too.

Stay tuned.

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