The Virginia General Assembly approved amendments to the state’s biennial budget on the final day of this year’s legislative session Saturday.
Democrats and Republicans reached a consensus position on the most controversial budget item of this session, the expansion of Medicaid related to federal health care legislation.
The budget anticipates the expansion of Medicaid to tens of thousands of Virginians but it also included language that requires a commission to study and oversee the implementation of Medicaid reforms before the expansion goes into effect.
“The budget language is a step in the right direction, but many of us would have liked a clearer statement that we intend to expand Medicaid immediately,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano (Dist. 57) of Charlottesville, in a statement. “Ultimately, I hope that Gov. [Robert] McDonnell will make the right choice for Virginia and work toward expanding Medicaid as soon as possible.”
Expanding Medicaid will mean that an additional 25,000 to 30,000 Fairfax County residents will have access to health care coverage, according to Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), chairman of the Board of Supervisors’ Legislative Committee.
There were several other small budget victories for Fairfax County, including additional or restored state funding for an early intervention program for infants and toddlers, beds at the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, the Healthy Families program and one of the judicial vacancies in the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
While the approved budget amendments did restore some funding for school support staff positions in jurisdictions like Fairfax County that have a higher cost of living, it was only $9.4 million statewide, as opposed to the full $32 million it would take to maintain current funding levels, according to McKay.
This so-called “cost of competing” funding was designed to help localities cover the additional expenses associated with paying teachers and school support staff higher wages in parts of the state that have a higher cost of living.
The loss in state funding is expected to mean higher costs for the county.
“We will advocate again next year for full restoration,” McKay said.
The budget that the legislators approved is now in McDonnell’s hands.
As the Virginia governor has line-item veto power, McDonnell can opt to accept, veto or amend any of the budget items. The General Assembly will reconvene April 3 to act on any legislation that the governor vetoes or amends.