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Licensing All Drivers in North Carolina

Earlier this week the Budget & Tax Center released an analysis of the economic and fiscal impacts of providing all drivers a license regardless of immigration status.  The findings suggest that more than 250,000 undocumented immigrants could be eligible for a license and their children too.  The net fiscal impact of issuing these licenses would be minimal, based on experiences in other states, and estimated revenue from fees could likely cover the cost of providing the licenses completely.

For years, North Carolina has been at the forefront of adopting measures that improve safety on the roads, from graduated driver’s licenses for first-time drivers to texting bans to strict requirements on the transportation of children. But one simple measure has been ignored: ensuring all drivers have a driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status.  In fact, since 2006, North Carolina has adopted more stringent identification requirements that effectively banned undocumented immigrants and others from obtaining a license.  This movement is in the opposite direction of the now 12 states that have expanded access to driver’s licenses recognizing the public safety benefits to having all drivers tested and insured.

Beyond providing greater assurance for all drivers that those on the road are tested, licensed and insured, driver’s licenses provide an important ability for workers to get to their jobs particularly as car travel is the dominant mode of transportation in North Carolina.  This increased mobility will likely lead to greater consumer spending, a more reliable workforce for employers, and a net benefit to the economy.

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