DENVER – Colorado lawmakers Wednesday struck a deal to partially fund a program that provides driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally.
After negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee – which met as a conference, or compromise, committee – it was agreed to provide $66,000 in supplemental funding for the current fiscal year.
That means that through June, a total of three offices would be open to offer the service to immigrants. The Department of Revenue must still pick which offices to keep open, but it is believed that offices in Denver and Grand Junction are being prioritized.
“The compromise supports the program without the expansion that caused the anxiety on the part of some of my colleagues,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, a member of the Joint Budget Committee who helped orchestrate the deal. “It’s one of those things where nobody is ever fully happy because the department request was higher.”
Democrats had sought to keep a total of five offices open with $166,000 after the Department of Revenue asked for the spending authority. But Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee blocked that request.
Attempts to resurrect the funding through a separate spending bill for the Department of Revenue also was rejected by Republicans.
Republicans objected to the program overall, suggesting that immigrants in the country illegally should not be awarded a driving privilege.
The compromise must be approved by the House and Senate, but the proposal is expected to be backed by both chambers.
The money is for only the current fiscal year, so lawmakers must also debate how to fund the program in the next fiscal year, which begins in July.