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Public Statements

Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. FLAKE. Madam President, there are many reasons given to enact immigration reform. Being from Arizona, we bear a disproportionate burden in the State from the Federal Government's failure to have a secure border and to have a rational immigration system.

There are many reasons, but the fiscal reason isn't often brought up. We were just given good fiscal reason today by the Congressional Budget Office that came forward with their estimate for the cost of the legislation.

Just a few minutes ago we heard the ``glass half empty'' speech, and I want to give the ``glass half full''--or actually, decidedly more than that. Let me take a few of the top-line numbers.

First, we are often told that if we enact this legislation, the increase in population of those who come across--illegally or legally--in the next 10 years will be some 30 million people. That is disputed by the facts on the ground. But also CBO points out in their estimate that by 2023, enacting S. 744 would lead to a net increase of 10.4 million in the number of people residing in the United States compared to the number of people projected under current law. So it is significantly lower.

The best estimate we have of the illegal population here is around 11 million. This would also lead to a substantial decrease in the illegal population obviously coming across. So we are looking at an increased population of about 10.4 million over 10 years, decidedly lower than some of the estimates that are being thrown around.

Let's talk about a few of the fiscal numbers. We are told it would be extremely costly to enact this legislation. CBO says the following: This will lead to an increase in Federal direct spending of $262 billion over the 2014-2033 period. Most of these outlays will be for increases in refundable tax credits, and on and on. So $262 billion in increased spending sounds significant, until you consider that this legislation will increase Federal revenues by $459 billion over the 2014-2033 period. So $459 billion in increased revenue compared against $262 billion in increased spending. That is a $197 billion surplus--or decrease in the deficit--over the 10-year budget window.

We often hear: That is OK for the first 10 years, but what happens after that? CBO looked at that as well, and they said this: On balance, CBO and JCT--Joint Committee on Taxation--estimate that the changes in direct spending in revenue would decrease Federal budget deficits by about $700 billion, or 0.02 percent, of the gross domestic product, over the period 2024 to 2033. Again, CBO and JCT estimate the changes in direct spending revenue will decrease Federal spending deficits by about $700 billion over the second 10-year budget window.

I know we often point out on this side of the aisle and the other side of the aisle as well these reports are only as good as the assumptions you make when you do these reports. Duly noted. But I think it is still instructive to look at this and dispel some of the wild rumors that are out there about the cost of this legislation, when CBO actually comes forward and says over a 20-year budget window, there will be a $700 billion decrease in Federal deficits. That is significant.

Let me also say CBO looked at how this legislation would affect the economy going forward. They looked at a further budget window. They say S. 744 would boost economic output, taking into account all economic effects including those reflected in the cost estimates. Again, they are talking about the direct spending that would increase through parts of this legislation as well. If you take that into account, still this bill would increase real inflation-adjusted GDP relative to the amount CBO projects under current law by 3.3 percent in 2023 and 5.4 percent in 2033--again, increasing economic activity by 3.3 percent in 2023 and by 5.4 percent in 2033. That is substantial.

When you look at the legislation and you look at what will happen when we increase legal immigration in ways that help the economy, particularly on the H-1B side--high-tech STEM visas--we all know intuitively that will help us, because those individuals who come with these kinds of degrees boost economic output and increase jobs. It is going to help this economy, and this spells it out in dramatic fashion: 3.3 percent increase in 2023 simply owing to this legislation, 5.4 percent in 2033 just owing to this legislation.

In summary, I want to say CBO estimates are only as good as the assumptions they make. But when they look at this legislation in a dispassionate way, as nonpartisan as they can get, they come up with figures that show net revenue over expenses is quite substantial--over $700 billion over a 20-year budget window--and the economic output would increase 3.3 percent by 2023 and 5.4 percent by 2033. That is significant and I think it bears noting.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

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