Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, wrote in a pro-business website that the state makes too many promises it can't afford to keep, and that the measure, if enacted, would likely amount to another.
"(T)he state's financial assistance program needs to be looked at more closely before eligibility is extended to a new group," according to the post on Washington Focus. "In order to set good policy, we need to spend more time studying the issue and evaluating the future financial impact."
Bailey's committee held a hearing on the measure Thursday, when proponents said extending college aid to illegal immigrants was the decent thing to do and that it would make for a stronger and more prosperous state going forward. Opponents countered that people who came here illegally - whether as adults or as children - should not be rewarded for having done so.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Medina Democrat who is on the committee and was caucusing with Republicans, supports the measure. His vote would give it a likely majority in the committee though he said that it is Bailey who will determine if the bill gets a committee vote.
The measure passed the state House earlier this month with Democrats united in support and Republicans split.
Bill proponents estimate that 645 college students receiving in-state tuition in Washington state during the 2011-2012 school year didn't offer proof of legal residency. They estimate that number would grow by 20 to 30 percent if the financial aid measure is approved. Using those numbers, costs in the next biennium would likely be between $3.3 million and $3.5 million.
Bailey did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.