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Last-minute gridlock on Colo. budget

Ivan Moreno, Associated Press

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado lawmakers were in the midst of last-minute tangling over next year's budget on Friday because of $3 million in scholarship money and whether students in the country illegally can benefit.

The gridlock over the scholarship money came as the House was set to take a final vote on the budget to agree on amendments that include money for wildfire victims and paying down pension debt to police and firefighters.

Democratic Rep. Crisanta Duran, one of six budget writers, said she wants to make sure students in the country illegally are eligible for the scholarships. Republicans accused her of inserting a political issue in the budget.

"I don't think it needs to be a political issue at all," said Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Mark Waller, the GOP's leader in the House. "It just needs to be about keeping Colorado's best and brightest kids in Colorado."

Waller, who worked on the scholarship amendment last week with Democrats, said it was never his intent to exclude any group from the scholarships.

But Duran said she wants to make sure that's clear in legislation before approving the scholarship funds.

"I don't think it's an issue of politics," Duran said. "It's an issue of the future of these undocumented students, and if these undocumented students are the top of their class, they need to be eligible for these funds. It's not political at all."

Each chamber has already approved the $20.5 billion budget, which includes federal funds. But final votes are needed to concur on amendments.

It is possible lawmakers will meet later Friday to settle the issue.

General fund spending, which lawmakers control and is made up of tax revenue, is expected to be about $8.2 billion next year.


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