DENVER
01/24/2011 04:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Smart Start Funding Debate Sparks Dueling Legislative Press Conferences

UPDATE (1/25): Republican Representatives Cheri Gerou and Jon Becker of the Joint Budget Committee told the Denver Post that they would be open to reconsidering their votes against funding the Smart Start program ""if [the JBC] could have a conversation about what all the numbers were and where this came from."

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Read more: Colorado GOP lawmakers open to reversing votes against school breakfast subsidy - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/legislature/ci_17188527#ixzz1C3Re5kje
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Democrats and Republicans in the Colorado Legislature are doing battle over a supplemental funding request for the school breakfast program known as Smart Start.

Last week, Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) denied a request for supplemental funding to administer the Start Smart Nutrition Program, which subsidizes the cost of breakfast at school for poor children. The $124,229 in extra funding was needed for the fiscal year that ends in June.

Despite the fact that there was $253,547 available in a cash fund from previous years when the program was under-budget, Republicans on the JBC unanimously voted against providing supplemental funding.

"I think if that need is out there, there are charitable groups that are out there that go way way beyond that to take care of families in need," Colorado Springs Republican Kent Lambert told the Denver Post of his decision to deny the request.

Now, Democrats in the Legislature are jumping on the GOP's decision, announcing on Monday that they planned to introduce legislation to reverse the JBC's decision.

"Being able to provide breakfast each day for our neediest kids is an important function of government. We should not be balancing our budget on the backs of our families in these tough economic times" Representative Cherylin Peniston said in a release on Monday.

Republicans, meanwhile, held their own press conference of their own to defend their stance on the issue. One observer of the GOP presser tweeted a quote from Representative Cheri Gerou, who objected to the characterization that the GOP didn't care about needy children. "We are not looking to starve the children of Colorado. We care about the children," she said.

"It's not a moral issue, it's an accounting issue," she said.

Last week, Gerou said her "vote would be different than it is" if the state were not experiencing a budget shortfall.

If the Democrats fail in their efforts to restore funding for Smart Start, low income students have to pay 30 cents per breakfast.