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State faces tough budget decisions
In response to Katherine Hahn’s letter to the Editor in the Feb. 9 Canyon Courier:
I would like to commend Ms. Hahn for her compassion and caring for the children of Colorado. In Colorado today, one out of every four babies born is a Medicaid baby. Colorado currently has approximately 650,000 people enrolled in Medicaid. It is estimated that of that number, roughly 400,000 are children. Given our state population of 5 million people, that equates to roughly 1 out of every 8 Coloradans is on Medicaid. While her criticism of me was directed to my JBC vote on the Start Smart program, I think it should be understood the realities that we face as a state.
My “no” vote on a request of $124,000 in additional funds for the Start Smart program was based on the following concerns:
• The request was made by a JBC staff member, not the Department of Education.
• Gov. Bill Ritter had not approved the request and was, in fact, opposed to the request.
• This program allows schools to purchase kitchen equipment with these funds despite the fact that the food is not prepared in the school kitchens.
• No audit has been made of the program to determine how much of the funds actually go toward purchasing food for children versus kitchen equipment for the schools.
• This reduced breakfast program is not for Medicaid-eligible families; these families are above Medicaid eligibility levels.
• Many schools admit to serving free breakfasts to all students (regardless of enrollment in program or income level) rather than tracking those students in need.
• My “no” vote can be challenged by the governor’s office, and a revote can be taken at any time.
Unfortunately, my vote was used by the House minority leader as a political game — we should never play games with those in our state that are in need.
The legislature’s Joint Budget Committee is charged with cutting $300 million from the current fiscal year (2010-11) and cutting $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion from the budget for 2011-12. The decisions I am making this year are made with a heavy heart and a clear understanding of the difficult choices to be made. To assume that I enjoy asking those of lower income levels and vulnerable populations to suffer is just not true.
I would invite Ms. Hahn to join me in a review of the budget, to explore what our options are and to understand the fiscal challenges our state is facing.
Lastly, she implied in her letter that I would be facing a challege for this office in the next election cycle. To that point, I am most grateful; we live in a republic that allows free and open elections — all who wish are welcome to serve the people of House District 25.
state Rep. Cheri Gerou