augusta free press news

Victory, defeat for Medicaid expansion in General Assembly

state-capitol2The House of Delegates voted 74-22 on Thursday to pass an amended state budget that fails to expand Medicaid, while the State Senate in a separate 36-4 vote approved an amendment to the budget that expands Medicaid to more than 400,000 poor Virginians.

“These are our neighbors—mostly working people, who clean our rooms while we stay here in Richmond, or work in fast food restaurants, or provide personal care for our disabled. This amendment will bring in $5 million a day and generate close to 30,000 good jobs in Virginia. We have to move in this direction, and there is absolutely no point in delaying and depriving people of care,” State Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) said.

House Republicans defended their budget as including a $95 million deposit in the state’s rainy day fund, $45 million in local aid reversion, a pay raise for teachers and school support staff, new funding for school security and funding for 250 Medicaid waiver slots.

The House budget also includes targeted economic development incentives, including $2.5 million for the creation of a Cyber Accelerator program to attract cyber security companies to Virginia and increases the angel investor tax credit cap by $500,000.

“Job creation and economic development continue to be our top priority,” said Del. Steve Landes (R-Augusta), chairman of the House Appropriations Economic Development Subcommittee. “In the past three years, we have invested over $100 million in concentrated economic development and watched our unemployment rate drop to 5.5 percent. But we know there is more work to do. Funding the Cyber Accelerator and expanding the angel investor tax credit are just two examples of our efforts to continue to create a good climate for job creation here in the Commonwealth.”

But House Democratic Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said the budget fails to address two major concerns.

“First, it does not include expansion of Medicaid, which would ensure that 400,000 Virginians begin to receive routine affordable health care.  Second, it includes a diversion of money from education , public safety, and health to transportation. We should not be paving our roads with  textbooks,” Toscano said.

“This budget siphons scarce resources from classrooms and public safety to pave roads,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Del. Mark Sickles. “Virginia is currently funding public education at 2008 levels, and I am very hopeful that the Senate will once again reject this short sighted approach to fund our enormous transportation deficit, a proposal that is the equivalent of using a teaspoon to empty the ocean.”