Budget Battle Putting Localities in Limbo

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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) -- Talks of a state government shutdown continue to linger as a budget still hasn't been signed.

"I think you've got a classic political stalemate. I mean, there's no other way to describe it," said Dr. David McQuilkin, a political analyst.

It's a game of political back-and-forth in Richmond about whether or not to include Medicaid expansion in the budget, which has to be passed by July 1 to avoid a state government shutdown.

Virginia House Republican leadership sent a letter to U.S. Senator and former governor Mark Warner, asking him to tell Governor McAuliffe to stop using the government shutdown as a "bargaining chip." Senator Warner responded with a letter of his own, urging lawmakers to come together for a "consensus solution.'"

After a regular session and then a special session, it's now mid-April and according to Republican Delegate Steve Landes, who represents parts of the Valley, "we're still no further along than we were when the House first passed a budget," said Landes, "during the regular session it's important that we complete our work on time, and now it's even doubly important because they are, in April and May, going to complete their work. And they have to know what the state funding will be before they can complete that. They can't balance their budget and know exactly what the funding will be until we've adopted a budget."

Meanwhile, not having a budget continues to put local governments and schools in a bind and Landes is frustrated with the governor's stance.

"The governor himself, during the campaign last year, said you shouldn't use health care and the ACA as a way to hold up the budget process. He was talking about the federal budget process last year. He's being very hypocritical saying one thing last year during the election and then doing something completely different when he's governor," said Landes.

"Unfortunately our politics is zero-sum right now. It's 'I win, you lose.' And as long as we play that kind of game, we're going to see these kind of problems," said McQuilkin.

Problems he said could last beyond November's midterm elections and even into 2016.

McQuilkin doesn't think lawmakers will come to an agreement until closer to the deadline when there's more pressure; however, he said even then, there's no guarantee.

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