ACLU Warns Against “Sucker Money” Plot to Save Real ID

July 20, 2007 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union warned today that proposals afloat in Congress to provide limited funding to states for implementation of the Real ID Act would amount to nothing more than “sucker money” that would cover only a fraction of Real ID’s costs. The ACLU said that state officials should not be fooled, and released a “Sucker Money Calculator” to estimate just how much states will still be stuck paying under current proposals.

“The amount of money that is being talked about on Capitol Hill is a laughable pittance compared to what Homeland Security itself has estimated Real ID will cost,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The rebellion against Real ID across the United States is based on privacy and other issues but also the fact that it is a giant unfunded mandate. We do not want to see state legislators or others fooled into thinking that issue has been resolved.”

One figure being talked about in Congress is $300 million, which would be divided among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in March 2007, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated that the total cost of Real ID would be $23.1 billion, including $7.9 billion in costs to individuals and $14.6 billion in costs to the states.

“The fact is, it was Congress that passed the Real ID Act, and until Congress commits to funding the full $23.1 billion cost, it remains an unfunded mandate, a ‘security tax’ on states and individuals that won’t even deliver security – and will actually increase drivers’ exposure to identity theft,” said Fredrickson.

“That does not, however, mean we think Congress actually should spend $23 billion to fund Real ID,” she added. “It would be a colossal waste of tax dollars that would bring Americans far less security than many other potential uses for that money. Congress should do something real to help security and pass the Akaka-Sununu bill, S. 717.”

The ACLU’s Sucker Money Calculator spreadsheet offers an estimate (based on a simple per capita calculation) of how much Real ID would cost each state according to the DHS estimate, how much each state would receive under a Congressional allocation of $300 million (or any other size), and how much that would leave the residents of each state paying through taxes and fees. The ACLU pointed out that actual costs in each state will vary according to a large number of factors, including whether the state already complies with some elements of Real ID.

“Just this week the GAO issued a report forecasting serious fiscal problems for the states in the next few years,” said Timothy Sparapani, senior legislative counsel to the ACLU. “Real ID is not what they need. State officials should do themselves and their constituents a big favor by continuing to demand that Congress undo this wasteful boondoggle of a law.”

A copy of the Sucker Money Calculator spreadsheet (in Excel format) can be found at:

To read the GAO report on state fiscal challenges, go to:

# # #

Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release