New Jersey legislators on Monday were debating a bill that would force the state’s taxpayers to reimburse local governments that lose federal aid under any plan that limits funding to so-called “sanctuary” cities.
The bill drew a quick rebuke from Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean), who called the measure “ill-conceived.”
“The legislation has the potential to devastate our state budget by shifting a $15 billion burden onto New Jersey taxpayers,” said Holzapfel, in a statement. “While this ill-conceived legislation is designed to make a political statement, it lacks a financial statement that addresses the tremendous tax increases it would require.”
The legislation is in response to a proposal of President Donald Trump to reduce or eliminate federal funding to cities, counties and other government entities that do not cooperate with requests by federal authorities to detain illegal immigrants who have been arrested. Middlesex and Union counties, as well as a handful of New Jersey cities, are considered “sanctuaries.”
The legislation would allow municipalities or counties that have been denied federal funds to apply to the state Commissioner of Community Affairs for a “dollar-for-dollar” match to compensate for the withheld federal money.
“Why should taxpayers across the state pay for the decisions of local governments that declare themselves a sanctuary from immigration law enforcement?” Holzapfel asked rhetorically in the statement. “This bill could potentially have ten times the financial impact of the gas tax increase that generated a statewide public outcry, yet we haven’t had a single public hearing.”
The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson), who is also the mayor of Union City. Both Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto have said they are in support of the legislation.
“I am an immigrant. What you’re hearing is my second language,” said Prieto, who was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. in 1971, according to NJ Spotlight. “That hits home for me so it’s very important to stand up for these individuals,” Prieto said.
Regardless of whether the bill passes, it is expected to be swiftly vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and Trump supporter. If Christie is replaced by a Democratic governor next year after his term ends, however, the bill could potentially be signed into law.