U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced an amendment to provide $300 million in funding to help states implement REAL ID, which he said has a multi-billion dollar price tag that threatens other key state programs such as education.
“This is a massive unfunded federal mandate on the states,” said Alexander, who spoke on the Senate floor today about Real ID. “Some in Washington have a bad habit of taking credit for an idea and then sending the bill to the states and letting the governors worry about how they will pay for it. That is why to date 17 states- including Tennessee- have passed legislation opposing the Real ID Act. I believe Congress has the responsibility to find the money to pay for this or repeal it.”
Alexander said his amendment is a down payment towards addressing the funding shortfall created by Real ID and vowed to continue searching for additional funds for the program.
The amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations bill is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), George Voinovich (R-OH) and John Warner (R-VA). The amendment would offset the $300 million cost through a 0.8 percent across-the-board cut in the rest of the bill. The Homeland Security appropriations bill is estimated to cost $37.62 billion.
States must be prepared to comply with the new Real ID standards by May 11, 2008. But last fall, the National Governors Association released a study estimating an $11 billion cost over five years for implementing the Real ID requirements. Other estimates put the price tag at more than $20 billion over the next decade.
For fiscal year 2005-2006, Tennessee issued more than 1.7 million new or renewed driver’s licenses and approximately 9 percent of those were renewed online. The state has 53 offices where driver’s licenses are issued.
“To date, the federal government has only designated $40 million for the states to comply with these mandates and only $6 million of that has actually been given to the states,” Alexander said. “If nearly two million Tennesseans show up at these offices, scrambling around trying to find out which documents to bring, I imagine Real ID will create a massive backlog at state driver’s license offices much like the passport quagmire now facing the U.S. State Department.”
The Real ID Act of 2005 set minimum national standards for state driver’s licenses that would require more than 245 million U.S. driver’s license or identification card holders to get new IDs. The Senate did not hold any hearings on the Real ID provisions before it was swept through Congress as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill of 2005.
A copy of this amendment is attached.
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