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Poll: State Voters Think Immigration Is No.1 Issue
CBS4 POLL: Do you agree that immigration is the most important political issue in Colorado?
(AP) DENVER Immigration is the most important issue facing the Colorado, easily topping concerns about the economy, the environment, education and taxes, according to a poll published Sunday by The Denver Post.

A majority of those polled -- 68 percent -- also said they believe that illegal immigrants cost state government "a lot of tax money." Those saying no accounted for 21 percent.

The poll of 625 registered and likely voters was conducted July 12-13 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon, said illegal immigration issues are near the top of residents' concerns in other Western state.

"But I've never seen it be the No. 1 one state issue before," he said.

A majority of those polled, 56 percent, said employers who hire illegal immigrants should be "severely penalized," and 64 percent said they would back a ballot measure that prohibits employers from claiming a tax deduction for an employee whose immigration status had not been verified.

The Legislature recently ended a special session in which it approved a series of immigration reform measures. The session was called after the Colorado Supreme Court barred from the November ballot a plan to ban non-emergency state services from illegal immigrants.

Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, who spearheaded the group that sponsored the constitutional amendment, said he was "bothered" that voters believed the state's No. 1 issue was illegal immigration.

"It makes me think I was almost too successful bringing attention to the issue," he said. "This is not a very good reading on what problems the state faces. It's a serious issue, but people seem to have gone from an underreaction to overreaction."

Former Denver Mayor Federico Pena, who opposed the constitutional amendment proposal, said he wasn't surprised that 63 percent of those polled said it was appropriate for the Legislature to address illegal immigration.

"They know Congress won't act," he said. "What's going to happen is that more states and cities will act, and there will be inconsistent and confusing policies all across the country."

According to the poll, the breakdown of respondents were: 36 percent Democrat, 40 percent Republican and 24 percent independent