After winning a third term in last week’s election, House District 25 Rep. Cheri Gerou began making trips down the hill to meet with Joint Budget Committee members.
Gerou has been serving as JBC chairman for the past year. However, with a Democratic majority now in the state legislature, her new role is as a minority member.
“I think a lot of us were in shock,” Gerou said while talking about the election results.
Although Republican Gerou fared well in capturing 55 percent of the vote in her race against Democratic challenger Lorna Idol and Libertarian candidate Jack Woehr, the shift to a Democratic majority is a reality that she and other party members are facing.
“This year, the Republicans can’t control anything,” she said.
While seeking another term, Gerou campaigned on a record of fiscal responsibility in her role as JBC chair.
Describing herself as a moderate, Gerou said she is planning to seek ways of trimming state expenditures in the Medicaid program to direct more funds toward education.
“Funding for K-12 is being challenged by Medicaid,” she said.
“I’ve always tried to learn as much as I could about Medicaid,” Gerou said. “I’m going to be running a bill on Medicaid to change the way we pay providers,” she added.
The current practice is that dentists treating Medicaid patients get paid the full amount for their services up front, Gerou said. Insurance companies don’t pay up-front costs, she noted.
While discussing other aspects of the state budget for the coming year, Gerou said that the expense of fighting wildfires is a concern for the governor. He is planning to increase the state reserve fund from 4 to 5 percent, she said, with the additional 1 percent designated for wildfires.
Gerou also has been involved with the aftermath of the Lower North Fork Fire. Earlier this year, Gerou sponsored a bill designed to compensate underinsured residents who lost their homes in the wildfire last spring.
Gerou said she would also support a civil union bill in the coming year, which the state Senate is expected to sponsor. Gerou said she voted for domestic partnership legislation in order to protect children.
Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt, but only one can be the legal guardian, she said.
“If that person dies, the child will not have support … Mostly, I was convinced we should do it for the children.”
Gerou said that 64 percent of Coloradoans favor civil unions, including 46 percent of Republicans.
In looking at her role in state politics, Gerou said that getting to know other representatives of both parties helps them work together more effectively.
However, a recent ruling on Amendment 41 is deterring collaborative efforts between parties, she said.
“Amendment 41 has eliminated any opportunity to have bi-partisan social time,” said Gerou. “We’ve given all the power to the state lobbyists and state employees.”
When asked about the passing of Amendment 64, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, Gerou expressed hesitancy.
“I’m not sure about the impact it is going to have on this state,” she said.
Gerou said she was pleased with how many people in her district participated in the Nov. 6 election. Nearly 42,000 of approximately 62,000 registered voters in HD 25 mailed in ballots or came to the polls. Official elections numbers are still in a state of flux because of thousands of provisional ballots that are still in the process of being validated, however.
Evergreen resident Gerou has served the west Jeffco district since 2008, replacing Rep. Rob Witwer, who decided not to seek re-election. In 2011 Gerou served as vice chair of the Joint Budget Committee and chair of the Appropriations Committee.
During the campaign, Gerou said that she had worked to balance the state budget and provide adequate funding for education by cutting spending in other areas.
Gerou is an architect who has lived in the district for 20 years and has a local business with her husband.
Idol, who has an extensive background in education, spoke in favor of additional funding for education through alternative revenue sources. She also opposed opting out of Medicaid expansion.
HD 25 includes Evergreen, Conifer, Genesee, Lookout Mountain, Coal Creek Canyon and also a section of Littleton since state reapportionment.
Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at email@example.com or call 303-350-1042.