More Delays in General Assembly Budget Negotiations - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

More Delays in General Assembly Budget Negotiations

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Lawmakers returned to Richmond this week to pass a state budget, but negotiations have already hit another big delay.

At the beginning of what was to be a three-week special session Monday morning, Governor Terry McAuliffe rolled out his new budget proposals. They included a two-year “pilot plan” for expanding Medicaid health coverage to thousands of low-income Virginians who don’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford private insurance.

Republicans in the House of Delegates oppose expansion, and promptly shot the proposal down Monday afternoon. Late Tuesday night, House members approved their version of the state's two-year, $97 billion budget, with Medicaid expansion predictably absent from the proposal.

Republicans want lawmakers to pass a “clean budget," and consider Medicaid expansion separately during a special session. Now, they say, the ball is in the Senate’s court.

“They know they're holding up the budget for the wrong reasons, that's the only leverage they feel they have,” said 76th Delegate Chris Jones (R).

When the Senate adjourned Monday, it did so with the understanding the full body would not meet again until April 7. That will give its members - and members of the Finance Committee - time to assess the governor’s proposals.

Democrats want their Republican colleagues to give more serious thought those proposals - in addition to a pilot program for Medicaid expansion, they also included a 2 percent pay raise for all state employees (the House budget also includes similar raises and bonuses for state employees).

“Hopefully the Republicans won't just say no again. They've said no to every single proposal we've put on the table so far,” said 57th Delegate David Toscano (D).

But Senate members won’t vote on a proposal until early April, which means this stalemate will continue for at least two more weeks. After the Senate approves a budget, it will still face debate in a joint conference committee with the House, which could lead to even more gridlock.

In other words, we are likely no closer to a deal than we were two weeks ago. That’s tough news for localities like Charlottesville who will adopt their own budgets early next month, with no funding guarantees from Richmond.

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