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VA Government Shutdown a Possibility without Budget Compromise - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

VA Government Shutdown a Possibility without Budget Compromise

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Virginia lawmakers are scheduled to leave Richmond in just 10 days, but some big concerns still linger. Among them, whether lawmakers can strike a deal on healthcare expansion in the state budget.

Without one, some say Virginia’s government could shut down - but are these empty threats, or real concerns?

A lot of people - on both sides of the aisle - are talking about a potential state government shutdown. Nothing like that has ever happened in the commonwealth, and lawmakers insist it won't happen this year - but finding compromise won't be easy.

“I don't believe we're going to have a shutdown. We've never had a shutdown, that's not the Virginia way,” said 9th District Senator Donald McEachin (D).

But if state lawmakers can't find compromise, some worry the "Virginia way" might become a one-way ticket to budget stalemate.

“It didn't work too well in DC, and it's not going to work in Richmond, Virginia,” said 72nd District Delegate Jimmie Massie (R).

House and Senate lawmakers remain at odds over expanding healthcare coverage to some of Virginia’s poorest citizens.

An alternative to Medicaid expansion, the Senate wants to subsidize private insurance with money paid under the Affordable Care Act - a compromise they call "Marketplace Virginia."

“'Marketplace Virginia' is not the plan I would have written, but it is a good plan, it's a plan that I think accomplishes a lot of our goals,” said McEachin.

House Republicans aren't buying the idea.

“The private option has never been tried before. We've got a lot of work to do on the private option, and as I always say, I'd rather be a good imitator rather than a risky originator,” said Massie.

At this rate, lawmakers could leave Richmond March 8 without a deal, and if a compromise isn't found before the summer, Virginia’s finances could freeze July 1.

“You have to put it in the budget and hold the budget hostage, I think that's got to be their game plan,” said House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell.

But despite tough words, and 10 days to find a "Virginia way," lawmakers say a shutdown is a distant and unlikely concern.

“Don't inject D.C.-style politics into the state of Virginia,” said Massie.

“I don't think this legislature is going to do that at the end of the day,” said McEachin.

Many lawmakers in Richmond say they haven't seen this level of disagreement in a decade. Both houses will officially enter into conference committee on the budget Wednesday afternoon.

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