Rep. Julie McCluskie highlights work to support local families, the environment and health care
DILLON — Julie McCluskie, who was elected as a representative for Colorado House District 61 in 2018, is running for reelection. McCluskie, a Democrat, will face Republican opponent Kim McGahey in the district, which includes Delta, Gunnison, Lake, Pitkin and Summit counties.
Both candidates are from Summit County.
McCluskie and her husband are Colorado State University graduates and live in Summit Cove, where they have raised their two children. During McCluskie’s term in office, she was appointed to the Joint Budget Committee and has served as chair of the Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance and the Appropriations Committee.
“Two years ago, I was hired by the people of this district to do a job that I love,” McCluskie said. “It is the best job I’ve ever had in my life, and not because of the pay, but because of the opportunities I have to work with people to make a real difference in state government, to make sure that we’re protecting our unique and wonderful Colorado way of life, and being sure that everybody has that shot at their own Colorado dream.”
In her first term, McCluskie said she focused on two areas where she hears the most concerns: support for local families and the environment.
McCluskie said her work to support local families involves everything from affordable housing and livable wages to supporting Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy as well as access to child care and quality public schools. To address environmental concerns, she said she focuses on public lands, water, climate change and wildfires — topics she said surface at every town hall and in every conversation she has with local elected officials.
But McCluskie said she is most proud of her work on the health care front. She was a prime sponsor of the reinsurance program, which lowered insurance premiums for most people purchasing on the individual marketplace. The program was passed in 2019, and a funding source was secured in 2020 to extend the program for five years. McCluskie said she worked to expand coverage access to more people, including undocumented immigrants.
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“I certainly want to help craft legislation that’s not only smart for Colorado, but really smart for us on the Western Slope because we have such high insurance premiums out here,” McCluskie said.
Early childhood learning and higher education are other topics of importance to McCluskie, who noted that investing in early childhood development pays off in ways that are more significant than other investments the state can make. She sponsored a bill supporting free full-day kindergarten and carried a higher-education funding bill.
As a member of the 2020 Joint Budget Committee, McCluskie said it was a difficult year having to make $3.3 billion in cuts, but she felt that committee members worked in a bipartisan way to make sure essential social services, like Medicaid expansion and public schools, were protected.
As for the ongoing pandemic, McCluskie said she believes there is a balance to be found between public safety and impacts to the economy. As ski season gears up, McCluskie said she aims to support tourism and outdoor recreation.
“If we go overboard with public health guidance and protocols, we damage our economy,” McCluskie said. “I think it’s maintaining that balance. If we were to disregard public health protocols and just open up every business and put everybody back to work right now, my fear is we would have significant outbreaks, we would overload our health care system, our hospital capacity and certainly see an increase in the number of deaths.”
McCluskie also addressed the Black Lives Matter movement and the police reform bill, explaining that 43 amendments were applied to the bill, which she believes is indicative of how committed stakeholders were to crafting a bill that was fair and appropriate. While the bill received strong bipartisan support, she said there have been some concerns and that she believes improvements will be made.
“This work is about the system; it’s not about the good men and women who are serving our community,” McCluskie said. “I certainly own that I have so much to learn about the issues facing our communities of color. I am listening, I am learning about what it means to be Hispanic, Latinx or Black American. I can’t walk in those shoes as a white woman, but I really honor the voices that we are hearing, and I think our state has a responsibility to respond to those voices with heart, compassion and understanding but also action.”
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