Compromise yields partial funding for undocumented licenses program

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Customers wait in line at the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles.

DENVER — A bipartisan compromise Wednesday brings to an end a long-running battle over funding for a Colorado DMV program issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The Joint Budget Committee voted 6-0 to approve some of the additional funding requested by the Dept. of Revenue to meet the high demand for the program.

As a result, the state can reopen two of the four offices that were forced to shut down after Republicans on the JBC voted back in January against the department’s funding request, effectively shuttering the program, which was reduced to operating at just one office with a wait time for applicants of more than a year.

“I’m glad to see compromise prevail in the JBC,” said House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. “My thanks to the JBC members who came together to make our roads safer.”

Democrats, who control the House, had fought to restore the funding while Senate Republicans, who hold a one-seat majority in the upper chamber, were reluctant to approve the money for a program they uniformly oppose and have long argued would cost more than the sponsors of the law creating it said it would.

The compromise worked out in the past few weeks led to the JBC’s unanimous vote Wednesday to approve $62,000 in supplemental funding for the program to operate through June, still less than half of the $166,000 the department had initially asked for.

“We promised Coloradans that we would not rubber stamp funding requests for programs that lacked accountability and transparency, and we didn’t,” Senate President Bill Cadman said. “This program increased license fees for legally present residents in Colorado by more than 150 percent in order to subsidize drivers’ licenses and I.D. cards of those who are here illegally.

“This process, and the discussions it prompted about this issue, provided a resolution to satisfy all parties.”

 

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