Assembly expected to work on budget this week

Published 1:09 pm Saturday, April 5, 2014

FRANKLIN—When the Virginia General Assembly completed its session almost a month ago, one piece of legislation was still completely unresolved: a budget that everyone could agree on.

This week, the GA is expected to reconvene for a special session devoted to finishing the matter.

The hangup has been the debate on expanding Medicaid.

For that, Del. Rick Morris (R-64) blames the Democratic side of the Senate.

“The House passed a responsible clean budget. It’s a good budget…fiscally responsible,” he said.

As for expanding the Affordable Care Act — often referred to as Obamacare — and Medicaid, Morris said, “In fact, no legislation should be tied to any funding. It should be an up or down vote. The budget should not be held hostage to advance any agenda.

“And that’s exactly what the Senate and governor [Terry McAuliffe] are doing. They’re holding hostage teachers, firefighters and police for their political agenda.”

He continued to say that expanding Obama Medicaid, as he called it, is a separate issue. “They’re trying to bully us.”

As Morris sees it, the reported fraud in the Medicaid program is so extensive that the system is broken. Reform and reorganization are needed first.

“I think we have to responsible to the taxpayer,” he said. “It’s irresponsible of the Senate Democrats to shut down and go home. Extremely irresponsible.”

In contrast, Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-75) thinks that the importance of the budget is such that it merits further consideration and feedback.

“Some of them [the Senators] had some thinking to do, and some had to get back to their constituents and find out their input,” said Tyler. “I preferred the budget bill from the governor, specifically because it included a two-percent raise for teachers and state employees; something they haven’t gotten gotten for awhile.”

The House approved a one percent raise, she added.

Tyler also noted that the governor’s bill allowed $8.9 million for mental health and $7.4 million for pre-Kindergarten education.

Not expanding the Medicaid program in Virginia could cost the state, and ultimately the residents.

“Everyday we don’t expand Medicaid, we lose $5 million from the federal government,” said Tyler.

She added that she’s heard nothing from local governments, but that individual constituents have told her they are “very, very supportive of the raises, especially for state workers.

“I don’t agree that the governor or the senate is holding anyone hostage,” said Tyler. “Be mindful that this is a very, very important decision. They’re taking their time and doing it right.”

In Southampton County, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted for a resolution calling on the General Assembly to pass a budget.

Supervisor Bruce Phillips said then that several other counties have passed similar resolutions.

Supervisor Ronnie West, vice chairman, said, “It’s unfair of Richmond to sit still and put us in limbo.”