With the controversial immigration law set to go into effect at the end of July, the Gila County Board of Supervisors is scratching its head trying to figure out how to pay for it.
While the board said it would enforce any state mandate, it plans to ask the state to fully reimburse all local governments for the costs associated with enforcing Senate Bill 1070. The bill, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April, requires officers to arrest a person if they cannot verify their U.S. citizenship following a stop for some other cause. A driver’s license or state-issued identification card would be enough to prove citizenship. The law also allows citizens to sue if they think law enforcement agencies are not enforcing the new law.
This clause has raised concerns from Gila County Sheriff John Armer, who said the state could face multiple lawsuits once the law goes into effect.
Supervisor Shirley Dawson said the issue of illegal immigration should be enforced on the national level, where immigration laws are already in place.
“In an effort to try to stop a problem we have jumped into a mess,” she said. “The lack
of state leadership screams out at us. There are federal immigration laws in place that the state has put on its back. Now we have to pass the cost onto the taxpayers.”
Deputy County Manager John Nelson said although he thinks asking the state for money will “fall on deaf ears,” it is important the county take a stand against the state, which passes unbudgeted mandates every year.
For fiscal year 2011, the state enacted $1.28 million in budget transfers. Increased costs include $200,000 to Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) and $550,000 in lost lottery distributions.
distributions. In total, increased cost to Gila County taxpayers in 2011 is $696,700 over last year. Nelson is recommending a 2 percent increase in property tax to cover the additional expenses.
With 1070 taking effect July 29, Nelson said the county will have to pay to enforce it, although he does not know what the actual cost to the county will be.
On May 5, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution asking the state for reimbursement.
Supervisor Mike Pastor asked County Manager Don McDaniel to look over Gila County’s version of the resolution before the board passed it.
On the immigration law, Pastor said its enforcement “is most definitely going to cost us.”
Dawson echoed Pastor’s sentiment.
“This should have been taken care of at the national level, but we don’t have the senators with leadership to do that,” Dawson said.
The board tabled the resolution without setting a date.