State Groups' Cost Estimate, Call for Revisions Should Be Final Straw For Real ID Act, ACLU Says

September 21, 2006 12:00 am

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NEW YORK– New minimum estimates for the cost of the Real ID Act to the states should make it clear to Congress that it needs to repeal the act, the American Civil Liberties Union said today. A call for major changes in, and delay of Real ID by nonpartisan governors’ and state legislators’ groups that jointly issued the cost estimate also highlights the troubles faced by the act, the ACLU said.

“State leaders from both parties are in open rebellion against this unfunded mandate from Congress,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Timothy Sparapani. “If Real ID is implemented, Americans will be stuck waiting in impossibly long lines every single day at the motor vehicle department, fighting bureaucratic red tape and paying higher fees. Americans will demand that their states say ‘no thanks’ to implementing this mandate. Congress should repeal Real ID.”

The National Governors’ Association (NGA), the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) issued the cost estimates and call for revisions today.

According to their “National Impact Analysis,” Real ID would cost states a minimum of $11.05 billion over five years. By their own account the groups’ estimate was not actually a “conservative” number but an incomplete one, which does not take into account many significant parts of the Act that will drive up costs even further, such as:

The act’s requirements that the facilities where driver’s licenses are produced be secured; The need to create multiple nationwide electronic verification systems if Real ID is to be implemented; Law enforcement training and technology deployment; The public education efforts that the act will require; Data privacy protection costs, and; Increases in customer demand, the need to field complaints and resolve problems. “This $11 billion estimate appears to be conservative indeed, considering the magnitude of what they left out of their analysis,” said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project. “It’s likely the costs for Real ID will be billions more than today’s estimate – but no matter what the real figure is, Real ID needs to be repealed. At a time when many state budgets and services are already stretched thin, it is clear that this unfunded mandate amounts to no more than a tax increase in disguise.”

“The sad thing is, the huge new burdens Real ID will impose on ordinary Americans will bring few actual benefits, since it will do little to protect us against terrorism,” said Steinhardt. “And everyone needs to remember that the burdens it brings won’t just be long lines and higher fees – we will also pay the costs of diminished privacy, ID theft and the regimentation of our country through what amounts to America’s first true system of national identity papers.”

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