Virginia maintains budget stalemate
Democratic Senate demands Medicaid expansion, House Republicans oppose plan
Negotiations on the Virginia budget remain at a stalemate, with the contention over Medicaid expansion bringing Richmond to a continued partisan standstill.
Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, states were required to expand Medicaid to those making a salary of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, or $32,000 for a family of four in 2013. A later Supreme Court decision allowed states to decide whether to expand the program, which provides health insurance to the poor. Virginia, so far, has not expanded Medicaid.
House Republican spokesperson Matthew Moran said Republicans want to consider the issue of Medicaid expansion separately from the state’s general budget.
“The Democrats have included Medicaid expansion in the budget,” Moran said. “We oppose expansion for a number of reasons, but we particularly oppose the fact that they have put in the budget.”
Democratic Party spokesperson Ashley Bauman had a different perspective on the root of the conflict.
“In my opinion, the House Republicans are refusing to budge because they’re putting politics ahead of what is right for their constituents,” Bauman said.
Bauman said 400,000 Virginians are uninsured and the Republicans are refusing to close the coverage gap.
“If you look at the moral issue at hand, we are looking to insure 400,000 — that will go to the doctor[s] and use taxpayer money,” Bauman said.
Moran said Senate Democrats are “taking the budget hostage,” since, aside from the Medicaid issue, the House and Senate would likely pass the budget with relative ease.
“The only issue left to resolve is Medicaid expansion,” Moran said. “What we believe is an appropriate compromise is for us to pass a clean budget now and continue the debate over Medicaid expansion. The state budget isn’t optional.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t think that we’re very close to that compromise at all,” Moran said.
Bauman additionally emphasized Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s wish for the House and Senate to work together on the situation.
A study released by Christopher Newport University Thursday found many support for Medicaid expansion has changed since the budget stalemate started.
According to the study, “Virginia voters have soured on Medicaid expansion, with 53 percent saying they do not support the current proposal.”
Moran said Republicans think they have the voters on their side.
Bauman criticized the wording of the question in the poll and said the change skewed the results. The question asked, “Some people worry that the federal government will not pay its share if Virginia expands Medicaid. Would you support Medicaid expansion even if the federal government did not pay its share and Virginia had to cover the cost, or would you oppose it?”
Allocations to education and mental health may suffer due to the budget stalemate. Moran said many local governments and state universities are facing substantial uncertainty without a final budget resolution.