DENVER - The six members of the state legislature's bipartisan joint budget committee have postponed a vote one day after the board's Republicans voted to reject a proposal to help the state's struggling driver's license program for undocumented immigrants.
The program began in August 2014 but has since been found to be underfunded after the state received more requests for driver's licenses than it initially accounted for.
On Wednesday, representatives from the Colorado Department of Revenue, on behalf of the Department of Motor Vehicles, requested extra funds already raised by the program be allocated back to it through the budget.
The board needed a majority vote to approve the allocation of those funds, but members voted along party lines, essentially killing the request.
Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, an Adams County Democrat who sponsored the bill in 2013, accused Republicans of using the budget as a political weapon.
"It needs to be paid for by the fees on the licenses themselves," Ulibarri said. "What the Republicans on the joint committee did was say, 'No. We won't give you the money you already collected for this specific public safety purpose. We will make a political stand instead.'"
In response, Republicans say the Department of Revenue asked for $166,000 "extra dollars" for the program, claiming the DMV still has the same money initially allocated to the program when it was created.
However, Ulibarri claims that without the extra revenue, the program will shut down almost entirely.
Only five DMV offices currently offer the special driver's licenses, but the senator said that number will drop to just one if the committee's Democrats cannot sway at least one of the republicans to change their mind on the issue.
"One of the republicans will have to change their vote, or they'll use the budget as a political weapon as they have in Washington D.C.," Ulibarri said. "A big departure from how things generally operate in Colorado. If we have disagreements on policy, we do it on the senate floor or the house floor, we don't do it in our budget."
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