Pass a clean budget

Published 12:14 pm Saturday, May 24, 2014

The 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly ended over five weeks ago. Unfortunately, work on the two-year state budget set to take effect on July 1 is incomplete. On March 25, the House of Delegates passed a fiscally responsible budget that will keep Virginia’s economic train moving. However, the July 1 deadline is quickly nearing and the state budget is incomplete because Governor Terry McAuliffe and Democrats in the State Senate refuse to pass a budget unless the House of Delegates agrees to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion in Virginia. In other words, the Governor and the Senate are holding the entire state budget hostage over Medicaid expansion.

The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, gives states the option to expand their Medicaid programs. There is often a lot of confusion, but it is important to remember that Medicaid is different than Medicare. Medicare provides health care coverage to seniors, while Medicaid provides health care coverage to children, low-income parents and the disabled. Medicaid expansion would cover able-bodied, working adults. Virginia cannot afford Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. That’s because Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is mostly financed by drastic cuts to Medicare that will hurt Virginia seniors and by the federal government borrowing more money, which will add to the national debt.

The federal government promises to indefinitely pay for 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion. In Virginia, the cost of expansion will be close to $2 billion per year. Nationwide, it is nearly $105 billion per year. In order to cover most of the costs of expansion, Obamacare cuts $716 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The remaining costs are paid for through higher taxes under Obamacare and by shifting costs to the states.

Raiding Medicare to pay for Medicaid expansion is wrong. President Obama got away with it because he rushed Obamacare through Congress before people had a chance to understand it. Now, Gov. McAuliffe is trying to do the same thing with Medicaid expansion in Virginia. He is holding the Virginia budget hostage and threatening a state government shutdown unless we implement Obamacare in Virginia.

I am disappointed that Gov. McAuliffe would hold hostage Virginia’s school teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public service personnel in order to push his political agenda. Every issue should be voted up or down by the people’s representative — not be held hostage by the budget.

I do not think we should cut Medicare in order to expand welfare to working-aged adults. Beyond that, Medicaid is growing at an unsustainable rate. It has grown by 1,600 percent over the last 30 years. In 2013, Virginia’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office prosecuted over $200 million in Medicaid fraud — the Medicaid program must be overhauled before any expansion should take place.

As your delegate, I will continue to fight against Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Please tell Gov. McAuliffe to drop his demands for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and let Virginia pass a budget.

Del. Rick Morris represents the 64th district of Virginia in the House of Delegates.