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Legislative Audit Commission Meeting


May 25, 2006

Members Present:

Representative Lyndon Carlson Senator David Hann
Representative Rick Hansen Senator Ann Rest
Representative Ruth Johnson Senator Claire Robling
Representative Connie Ruth  

Members Absent:

Representative Sondra Erickson Senator Richard Cohen
Representative Aaron Peterson Senator Sheila Kiscaden
Representative Torrey Westrom Senator Warren Limmer
Representative Tim Wilkin Senator James Metzen
  Senator Thomas Neuville

The Legislative Audit Commission meeting was called to order by the Chair, Senator Ann Rest, at 1:37 p.m. in Room 112 of the State Capitol.  The purpose of the meeting was to release and review the program evaluation report, Economic Impact of Immigrants.

Senator Rest recognized Jim Nobles, Legislative Auditor.  Mr. Nobles gave a brief synopsis of the evaluation and then introduced Joel Alter, Project Manager, to give further details.

Mr. Alter indicated that this evaluation is really a summary of what has been found in other research, as opposed to an evaluation of a certain program.  Mr. Alter’s research found that, compared with immigrants nationally, Minnesota’s immigrants are younger, on average; have higher median earnings; are more likely to be poor; are more likely to be refugees; and are more likely to have completed high school.  He explained that one reason for having a higher median income yet being more likely to be in poverty may be that immigrants in Minnesota tend to have a larger number of children and therefore would need a higher income to not be in poverty.  Mr. Alter went on to say that immigration could have various types of economic impacts, including more efficient use of labor; lower prices for some goods and services; higher earnings for some businesses; lower wages for workers in competition with immigrant labor; higher wages for workers whose jobs complement those of immigrants; and higher government costs and revenues.  Mr. Alter said that studies suggest that immigration has small, favorable impacts on U.S.-born workers and government finances, in aggregate; however, certain workers and levels of government may experience adverse impacts.  In addition, Mr. Alter said that illegal immigration’s net impact on Minnesota is unknown because there are no definitive data on the number and characteristics of Minnesota’s illegal immigrants and previous studies have not considered all of illegal immigration’s costs and benefits.  In response to a question by Representative Hansen, Mr. Alter indicated that the 1997 study by the National Research Council that supported some of the evaluation’s conclusions was a groundbreaking and thorough report, and no other study has been done as well since.  In response to a question by Senator Hann, Mr. Alter suggested that one area the legislature might look at in more detail is:  “How are the children of immigrants performing in Minnesota schools?” 

Senator Rest invited Tom Stinson, State Economist, and Tom Gillaspy, State Demographer, to come forward and share their comments on the evaluation.  In response to a concern expressed by Representative Carlson, Mr. Gillaspy stated the 2000 U.S. Census was probably more accurate than the 1990 Census because there were greater efforts to help the non-English speaking U.S. population understand that a survey from the government is not a bad thing.  Mr. Stinson offered examples of how immigration may create more public costs in some instances but not in others (for example, the costs of road repairs will not be affected much by the number of immigrants, but education costs will be incurred if immigration causes schools to increase their number of teachers or classrooms). 

Senator Rest thanked Mr. Stinson, Mr. Gillaspy, and the Legislative Auditor’s Office.  With no further business, she adjourned the meeting at 2:31 p.m.


Senator Ann H. Rest, Chair

Shelly Watterud, Recording Secretary


Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155