Senators restore breakfast money

DENVER – It took less than a minute Wednesday morning for state senators to agree to pay for breakfasts for needy schoolchildren and end one of the first controversies of the legislative session.

Last month, the budget committee refused to allow schools to take an extra $124,000 out of a savings account to pay 30 cents a day so some low-income children can get their school breakfasts for free. The three Republicans on the panel voted against the proposal, causing Democrats to howl in protest.

Democrats introduced a bill to pay for breakfasts, but Tuesday morning it was a Republican senator who ended the fight.

Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, moved an amendment to a school budget bill that restored the funding. All 10 members of the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed, including Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, a budget committee member who originally voted to withhold the funds.

“These schools are in the process of trying to make decisions based on what will happen in the next couple of months,” King said. “I think we need to move forward with this and take care of this issue for the rest of the school year.”

The money already was set aside in a savings account, and schools merely needed the Legislature’s OK to get the funds.

Without the extra $124,000, some children might have had to pay 30 cents for their breakfasts for the last several weeks of the school year, according to research by the Legislature’s staff.

The federal government already buys breakfast for the poorest children, and it provides 30-cent breakfasts for children in the next income bracket. The state started to subsidize the 30-cent payment in 2007, but the program spent slightly more than legislators had expected this year.

The full Legislature still has to approve Wednesday’s changes, but now that the breakfast money is back in the bill, more than half of all legislators would have to vote to strip them back out – something not likely to happen.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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