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Mark Obenshain: Passing a budget – finally

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obenshain2The General Assembly passed budget – finally! It’s coming about three months late, but the General Assembly just adopted a budget this evening.

After three months of inaction, on Monday Republicans regained control of the Senate and within hours, members of both chambers moved quickly to hammer out an agreement on reductions to address a significant revenue shortfall projected after we left Richmond in March, and this evening, the House and Senate went back into session to put an end to this long delay and enact a responsible budget for Virginia.

All Senate Republicans united to decouple Medicaid expansion from the budget and even went a step farther, adopting new language making it abundantly clear that Medicaid expansion cannot take place without legislative approval. We’ve had the debate on Medicaid expansion, and we’ll undoubtedly have it again—but it cannot hold up the budget. Tonight, I’m pleased to report that the Senate passed a truly clean budget.

By doing so, we’ve done our part to avert a government shutdown. Once circumstances changed, we acted quickly, ensuring that schools, local governments, and others reliant on this budget have as much time as possible before the end of the fiscal year to act on the basis of this budget. And we hope, expect, and call upon Governor McAuliffe to sign this budget and not let Virginia go to the brink—or beyond.

The Commonwealth has never gone without a budget. I want to keep it that way.

When the money committees reported out their respective budgets back in February, most believed that revenues would continue to grow, and the budget reflected that expectation, increasing funding across a wide range of programs and secretariats. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a contraction since that time, and revised projections paint a dim picture for the next two years, so some of those proposed increases will have to be set aside for another day.

The delay in adopting a budget has come at a price. It has made budgeting much more difficult for our schools, local governments, and constitutional officers. It has created uncertainty for individuals, non-profits, and businesses who rely on state government for licensing, grants, and benefits. And, repeated often enough, this Washington-style approach to budgeting could adversely affect our creditworthiness.

That’s why today’s budget passage is very good news. I wanted to see a budget passed all the way back in March, but I’m glad we finally got it done in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing this budget signed into law.

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