Separate the two? Can’t have a budget without Medicaid vote, and vice versa

state-capitol-headerWe’re hearing some talk from right-leaning editorial boards, parroting the House Republicans that they cheerlead for, that the perfect solution to the ongoing budget stalemate in Richmond would be to separate the two – voting now on a state budget, and then holding a special General Assembly session in the fall to consider Medicaid expansion.

Give credit to the House GOP for selling this bill of goods, and a tsk-tsk to the ed boards for not seeing this for what it is: a way for House Republicans to get their 100 percent ever-loving way.

You can’t do any kind of Medicaid expansion without there being some impact on the state budget. Ergo, any special session on Medicaid expansion would require in the event of actual action to expand Medicaid that the state budget be amended.

Of course House Republicans want things done this way. This is akin to setting your family budget for the month on the first and putting off until the 15th the decision on whether or not to go to the doctor. If you’re putting off deciding on going to the doctor until the 15th, you’re probably not going to decide on the 15th that you can go ahead and go to the doctor.

Kicking the can down the road is what the General Assembly did last year when it was run by Republicans in both houses and there was a Republican governor. The GOP-styled 2013 Medicaid compromise gave us a study commission that is taking its sweet time, but is nonetheless being cited by House Republicans like Dickie Bell, who represents Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County, among other localities, in the House of Delegates, as some sort of binding action of the legislature that needs to be treated as just short of constitutional for the duration, maybe even the end of the world.

It wasn’t that, or even close; in an intervening election, Virginia elected a Democratic governor and lieutenant governor, giving the Ds control over two of the three legs of the stool upon which biennial budgets rest.

This isn’t to say that House Republicans, as the third leg of the stool, don’t have their own leg to stand on in this debate. Gov. Terry McAuliffe and a bipartisan Senate have pushed for reforms adding 400,000 more people to the Medicaid rolls in Virginia; House Republicans want nothing. The definition of the word compromise would suggest that some number between 0 and 400,000 is where this will end up, and the sooner the three sides can sit down at a table, the more likely we are to get a compromise before July 1, when the state government shuts down without a new biennial budget in place.

That’s where this is at this point: some number between 0 and 400,000. Not “separating the two.” That’s a nonstarter, but unless you’re an ed board writer who unwittingly writes press releases for the GOP, you already knew that.

– Column by Chris Graham


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