Lawmakers Remain at Odds over Medicaid as Budget Deadline Approaches
RICHMOND, Va (WVIR) -
With Republicans now in control of the state Senate, and special meetings scheduled for both the House and Senate Thursday night, Virginia may get a budget before having to shut down at the end of this month.
The showdown over Medicaid expansion in Virginia will likely end soon.
With Republicans in charge it is not likely that Medicaid expansion will be included in the budget - but despite the odds, Democrats remain hopeful that it will still happen.
"The budget that we will pass on Thursday night will not include Medicaid expansion,” said 4th District Senator Ryan McDougle (R).
After months of bitter division and on the brink of a state shutdown in Virginia lawmakers will return to Richmond this week in hopes of ending the budget crisis.
The political loser looks to be the Democrats.
"Right now, members of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee are working feverishly to try to come up with the budget that we can vote on on Thursday,” said McDougle.
With the surprise retirement of Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett, the power switched over to the Republicans – but some Democrats remain optimistic.
"I remain the optimist that we're going to have a budget and we're going to have Medicaid expansion,” said 9th District Senator Donald McEachin (D).
McEachin says, while passing a budget and avoiding the worst take precedence, Virginia should accept federal dollars to close the coverage gap.
"I think it's awful to even suggest that we ought to leave 400,000 people without health insurance when we have the opportunity to provide them with health insurance,” said McEachin.
On the flip side, Republicans say going with that plan would set Virginia up for a financial hole it cannot escape.
"And we're not talking about whether individuals can get healthcare, we're talking about how do we pay for it and what is the best way to pay for it,” said McEachin.
But as the deadline approaches, lawmakers agree on one thing: passing a spending plan.
"We need to get it done,” said McDougle.
With a shrinking revenue, Republicans and Democrats also agree on another thing - and that's the dire need to make cuts.
The two-year budget that comes through will likely include slashes to higher education and K-12 funding.
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