Dickie Bell statement on budget vote

dickie bellThe Virginia General Assembly passed the state’s two-year budget late Thursday, sending the budget to the desk of Governor Terry McAuliffe for final approval. The budget addresses the $1.5 billion revenue shortfall by cutting spending increases and using some of the state’s rainy day fund. The budget does not include Medicaid expansion. Delegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R-Staunton) issued the following statement.

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

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.

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