A California budget deal announced this week would provide state-funded health care coverage to children living in the U.S. illegally, making the state the first in the nation to do so.
The deal between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders would cover about 170,000 immigrants 18 and under and is expected to easily pass the state Senate and Assembly.
It would cost taxpayers an additional $40 million beginning in May 2016, and an estimated $132 million annually after the first year, according to the LA Times.
“The fact is that illegal immigrants cost about $60 billion a year—that is they receive $60 billion more in government benefits than they pay in taxes,” said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow on poverty and the U.S. welfare system for The Heritage Foundation. “The California action will simply make that tax higher.”
The health care provision is part of a $115.4 billion budget agreement for California’s upcoming fiscal year. Proponents of the expanded health care spending find it necessary due to federal inaction.
“While Washington dithers because they can’t get things done, we need immigration reform,” said state Senate leader Kevin de León. “The reality is many of these children, and they are children, require some kind of health care and they receive it in the emergency room.”
Republicans argue the health care expansion will not actually improve access for illegal immigrants because so few doctors accept Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, according to the Associated Press.
California boasts some of the nation’s most generous laws regarding illegal immigrants, including its 2014 decision to allow those in the U.S. illegally to apply for driver’s licenses.
“With this budget, we’re saying that immigrants matter, irrespective of who you are or where you’re from,” de León told the LA Times.
In addition to increased health care spending, the proposed budget gives billions of dollars to state public schools and universities, provides more than $200 million in funding for preschool and child care and allots $380 million in tax credits for the poor, according to the LA Times.
Brown called the budget “sound and well-thought-out” while Republicans in the legislature argued it could force increased taxes on gas, cigarettes and health care.
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