“I ask this: do not make a snap decision against expansion,” said McAuliffe on Thursday as he made the latest case for Medicaid expansion.
The Democrat presented state lawmakers with a two-year budget that claims $157 million in savings over the next two years related to the use of federal funds available under the Affordable Care Act that would extend Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of Virginians currently without access to healthcare.
“We can save $157 million dollars in state funds over the next two years and use those savings to provide Virginia businesses and families with $105.7 million dollars in personal and corporate income tax relief and boost the Commonwealth’s economy,” McAuliffe told lawmakers.
He clearly faces an uphill battle, with Republicans in control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. When he tried in 2014 to get the legislature to go along with a proposed Medicaid expansion during discussions of that upcoming biennial budget cycle, Democrats had control of the State Senate, but the Senate and House never could come to agreement on proceeding with the expansion in that cycle.
Augusta County Republican Del. Steve Landes, the vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is already calling the latest Medicaid proposal from McAuliffe a “nonstarter.”
“It’s important to note that Governor McAuliffe’s proposal is just the first step in the budget process,” Landes said. “I appreciate the Governor’s work on crafting this budget, but I am disappointed that he chose to include Medicaid expansion in his budget once again, and he fully knows this provision is a nonstarter.”
A joint statement from House Republican leaders, including House Speaker Bill Howell, painted a similar picture.
“It is unfortunate to see Governor McAuliffe include Medicaid expansion in his budget again, which he knows the General Assembly does not support,” the statement read. “Predicating economic development priorities and tax cuts on assumptions related to expansion is counterproductive and only makes it more difficult to produce a budget on time. Developing the budget is a collaborative process between the Governor and the General Assembly, and we are much more productive when we emphasize areas of common ground.”
McAuliffe, for his part, said Thursday that he is convinced that the proposed expansion is “necessary and inevitable,” then left himself an out.
“If you choose to leave this money on the table, there are many other positive initiatives that we can accomplish together for the good of the Commonwealth,” the governor said.
– Story by Chris Graham