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Budget Negotiations Begin, Lawmakers Remain at Odds over Medicai - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Budget Negotiations Begin, Lawmakers Remain at Odds over Medicaid Expansion

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RICHMOND, Va (WVIR) -

State lawmakers are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst as budget negotiations begin Wednesday in Richmond.

They're aiming to finish their work by next Saturday, March 8 - but that will require a nearly miraculous deal on Medicaid expansion.

Nine days left, and House and Senate lawmakers are digging in their heels on Medicaid expansion, the divisive issue that has dominated this entire legislative session.

Both houses have now reviewed - and rejected - each other's budget proposals, clearing conference committee members to begin working on a compromise Wednesday afternoon. They're expected to work through the weekend, and House Appropriations Chair Chris Jones says there's no reason they can't finish their work by Tuesday.

Except, of course, that neither side is anywhere near a compromise on Medicaid expansion.

“What we have before us is fatally flawed language that is holding our budget hostage and will cause us to be here longer than we need,” said 32nd District Delegate Tag Greason (R).

“The onus is not on the other side for failure to get a budget deal, we're looking at a budget deal that makes business sense. That's why we want Medicaid expansion in the budget,” said 57th District Delegate David Toscano (D).

Spending in the House and Senate budgets is only separated by one half of one percent, according to House Republicans. Closing that gap won't be hard, but bridging the divide on Medicaid expansion might be the most difficult compromise lawmakers have seen in a decade.

That compromise is now in the hands of the 12 members of the budget conference committee.

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