The bill offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants passed out of the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday under intense scrutiny by Republicans of bill sponsors’ claims that undocumented alien students would not be subsidized by Colorado tax dollars.
Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, told Democratic Senate sponsors, Angela Giron, Pueblo, and Mike Johnston, Denver, that as far as he was concerned pay-per-service fees provided to colleges by the state amounted to subsidies that undocumented students would be taking advantage of.
Johnston and Giron largely disagreed with King, and said that fee for service dollars, which are transferred in lump chunks to schools for a variety of reasons including subsidizing rural colleges, are not attached to individual students and therefore those students do not benefit directly from the money.
Members of both the legislative council and joint budget committee staff explained the reasoning behind an increase in the projected revenue of the bill and their decision that fee-for-service dollars would not be affected by an the relatively small number of undocumented immigrant students taking advantage of the services.
“For an incremental change of the population in this magnitude we don’t feel the institutions would require addition funding” Eric Kurtz, Joint Budget Committee analyst, said when questioned whether colleges would need more funds for the students.
The new fiscal note raised estimated annual tuition revenue coming from the students to between $770,000 and $1.3 million a year.
King said the fact of the matter is that because some schools receive money that subsidizes undergraduate education, illegal aliens would receive services subsidized by taxpayer dollars. King called for the term un-subsidized to be removed from the language of the bill. “This is not a gotcha amendment,” King said. “This is just a truth in advertising amendment.”
Johnston asked for a no vote on King’s amendment, explaining that fee for service funds, as described by experts, is a lump sum of money that would not see an increase as a result of the new students added. The nominal indirect funds received by students could not be seen as a subsidy for that student in particular, he said.
Both he and Giron said that because undocumented students would not be able to take advantage of direct subsidies provided by the Colorado taxpayer in the form of the Colorado Opportunity Fund, they remained true to their word that those students would receive no Colorado taxpayer dollars.
Students who choose to go to college would face a considerably steeper rate than in-state students due to their inability to gain access to the College Opportunity Fund. This extra cost would amount to considerable revenue to the colleges they attend.
Republicans were united in their opposition to the bill passing out of committee.
In the Democratically controlled Senate that opposition doesn’t mean much, but the solid Republican opposition the bill faced in two committees may portend a difficult time for it once it makes its way over to the House.
The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.