RICHMOND, Va. (AP) The General Assembly has passed a state budget after adopting an amendment to ensure that Gov. Terry McAuliffe cannot expand Medicaid without legislative approval.
The Republican-backed amendment passed on a 20-19 party-line vote Thursday night after hours of internal GOP wrangling. The Senate then voted 21-18 to pass the budget. The House then passed the amended bill 69-31.
Medicaid expansion was the sticking point that prevented the General Assembly from passing a budget in the session that ended in March. McAuliffe and his fellow Democrats favor expansion, while most Republicans oppose it. McAuliffe had not ruled out trying to expand the program by executive action.
Statement from Governor Terry McAuliffe:
“This evening’s actions demonstrated how deeply committed Republicans in the General Assembly are to denying 400,000 Virginians access to life saving health care. Instead of moving forward on a plan to close the coverage gap, the Senate of Virginia moved our Commonwealth backward by violating the terms of the bipartisan agreement they reached in last year’s budget.
“Virginians deserve better than representatives who put narrow ideology ahead of what is best for our families, economy and budget.
“When this budget reaches my desk I will evaluate it carefully and take the actions that I deem necessary, but this fight is far from over. This is the right thing to do for Virginia, and I will not rest until we get it done.”
Statement from Lt. Governor Ralph Northam
“Tonight Virginia legislators rejected an opportunity to move Virginia forward on one of the Commonwealth’s most challenging problems, the lack of health insurance for 400,000 Virginians. Though they fulfilled their responsibility to pass a biennial budget, I am incredibly disappointed and deeply troubled that the adopted budget did not include Marketplace Virginia or any other compromise to close the coverage gap. To date, Virginians have paid over $810 million in federal taxes intended to go towards closing the coverage gap, but we have yet to bring any of that money back to the Commonwealth to provide health care for low-income, uninsured individuals, and to create thousands of good jobs. For months, the Republican leadership has failed to produce alternatives or engage in meaningful debate or compromise on this issue. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer. Policy makers need to find an immediate solution for the more than 400,000 Virginians who still cannot access affordable, quality, healthcare.”
Statement from House Democratic Caucus
“Republicans just passed a budget that moves the Commonwealth backwards by denying 400,000 Virginians access to affordable health care, denying teachers and state employees a raise, raids higher education, reduces funding for core government services, and undermines every inch of progress made by the bipartisan General Assembly last year on closing the coverage gap. This vote was made possible by Senator Phil Puckett’s decision to abandon his constituents and hand control of the State Senate to Republicans,” said Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “The Republican Party has once again shown that it cares more about the extreme right Tea Party wing of their caucus than the well being of the 8.1 million Virginians they were elected to serve."
Statement from Speaker of The House William Howell
“I am very pleased that the General Assembly was able to put politics aside and pass a budget to avert a government shutdown. This is a responsible, conservative budget that closes the $1.5 billion revenue shortfall while protecting investments in some core areas like K-12 education, mental health and the state employee retirement system.
“I want to thank Majority Leader Kirk Cox, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, Vice Chairman Steve Landes, and Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairs Walter Stosch and Chuck Colgan, as well as the Appropriations and Finance committee staffs for expediting work on the state budget once an agreement was reached. They have demonstrated incredible professionalism and should be commended for their quick work.
“At no point did the budget include language that would have allowed the Governor to expand Medicaid without the approval of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission. However, because reports have suggested that Governor McAuliffe may try to do so, the General Assembly added an additional, clarifying section that unequivocally prohibits the expansion of Medicaid without the approval of the legislature.
“As I have said consistently throughout this process, the House of Delegates is committed to a full and fair discussion on the merits of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. I am deeply concerned about Medicaid expansion and what it would mean to Virginia. Our current Medicaid program is unsustainable and needs reform; Virginia cannot afford the long-term costs and cannot rely on the false promise of free federal money; and we must think very carefully about creating a new welfare entitlement for able-bodied, working adults. This is a complicated issue that is worthy of debate and I look forward to just that.”
Statement from Delegate Dickie Bell
“Late last night the State Senate and House of Delegates came together to put the people of Virginia ahead of politics. We passed a responsible, fiscally sound, and conservative budget that addresses our state’s $1.5 billion revenue shortfall while protecting our key investments in K-12, mental health, and the Virginia Retirement System. This budget does not include Medicaid Expansion.
“This budget addresses the revenue shortfall by eliminating spending increases as compared to the original budget, and by tapping into the state’s rainy day fund. The rainy day fund is Virginia’s savings account, and I take the responsibility we have to protect and increase that fund very seriously. In this case, however, we had little choice. Without it, we would have to make severe cuts to core government services, and it would have been tough to identify those cuts in such a short period of time. Like families in Virginia, we can’t spend money that we don’t have. We were, however, able to protect over $300 million in new classroom funding for K-12 education, about $50 million in new funding for mental health reforms and investments in our state employee retirement system.
“Though the original budget language did not expressly allow the Governor to expand Medicaid without the approval of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, there was concern among many that Governor McAuliffe may try to do so. Therefore, the General Assembly has added an additional, clarifying section that unequivocally prohibits the expansion of Medicaid without the approval of the legislature.
“Once the budget is signed, we can and should return to Richmond to debate Medicaid expansion on its own merit. I have continually expressed my concerns about Medicaid expansion, and I still believe that Virginia cannot afford the long-term costs and we cannot trust the federal government to pay for Medicaid expansion forever. I am, however, more than willing to have a full and fair debate on this issue.
“While I am disappointed that it took us 96 days to get here, I am pleased that we are one step closer to avoiding a Government shutdown. I hope that the Governor will act quickly on the budget, so that our localities, school divisions, and state agencies can gain the certainty that they need to complete their own budgets.”
Statement from Delegate Tony Wilt
“While the fiscal reality dictated that we had to make some difficult choices in our biennial budget, I am glad that we have finally accomplished the number one task of the General Assembly…passing a budget. I hope the Governor acts quickly on the budget so that it can be in place come July 1 and the threat of a government shutdown can be put to rest once and for all.”
“While recent revenue forecasts and the impending shortfall required that we eliminate many of the originally proposed spending increases, I believe this is a responsible and conservative budget. However, it does preserve much of the new investment in some core areas like K-12 education, mental health and the state employee retirement system.”
“Additionally, this budget properly decouples the issue of Medicaid expansion. As House Republicans have stated all along, Medicaid expansion should be considered as a separate issue on its own merit. While I still have concerns about the fiscal implications of expanding the Medicaid program, I welcome continued discussion and debate about this issue and will give due diligence to any proposals offered by my colleagues or the Governor. Furthermore, because of recent indications that the Governor may try to find a way to expand unilaterally, clarifying language was added to the budget that unequivocally prohibits the Governor from expanding Medicaid without the approval of the legislature.”
“Upon final approval by the Governor, our localities, schools and public employees can finally have some certainty in knowing what resources to expect from the Commonwealth.”