by Virginia House Democratic Leader David Toscano
Back to Richmond— No Medicaid Expansion Yet
April 11, 2018
Since the House and Senate could not agree on a budget during the regular General Assembly Session, which adjourned in March, the Governor has called us back for a Special Session to get it done. The Special Session begins April 11, 2018, but no action will occur immediately on the budget. The new budget bill introduced by Governor Northam will have to go through the regular committee process just like the previous one. The House Appropriations Committee will begin its work quickly, and so it’s entirely possible that a House budget will be ready in time for floor debate on Tuesday, April 17 – but this could change depending on scheduling. We expect that the House budget will include Medicaid expansion and the hospital provider assessment, which allows us to expand without use of additional state dollars, much like it did in the regular Session, but we are not sure yet what will be included in the Senate’s budget. Because the Senate initially rejected Medicaid expansion and the provider assessment, its budget cut more than $400 million from education and other services that would have been funded by accepting the federal Medicaid dollars.While there has been some recent media coverage suggesting that Medicaid expansion will be adopted by the Senate, nothing is assured until the green lights go up on the vote board, and there will need to be considerable negotiations before a final budget compromise is reached. The momentum is positive, but Senate Republican leadership is now the main barrier, and we need to keep advocating for expansion. More than 7,000 citizens in our area would benefit from Medicaid expansion and it would certainly help our local hospitals by recapturing some of the money that would otherwise be spent on indigent care. You can watch the online live stream of the special session at this link.
It is hard to predict when we will agree on a budget. At our session on April 17 or 18, we will likely send the budgets approved by the House and Senate to a conference committee for possible resolution. That could take a week or much longer; during my first session in 2006, we did not pass a budget until June 28. However long it takes, I am confident that we will have a budget by the end of the fiscal year, as the Virginia Constitution requires.
Next up: Veto Session
In addition to the Special Session, we reconvene on April 18 for the so-called “veto session.” This is the day when we consider all of the Governor’s vetoes and any amendments he wants to make to bills that have been passed during the General Assembly Session. At this point, the Governor has vetoed eight House measures and has made recommendations to 32 House bills. Gov. Northam vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local governments from setting their own wage rates for contracts, and a bill that would have prevented Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional compact designed to attack climate change. He also vetoed an anti-immigration bill about so-called sanctuary cities, something we do not have in Virginia. I fully expect that all of the Governor’s vetoes will be sustained.