Continuing on the note that he struck on election night, Gov. Terry McAuliffe spent much of his inaugural address asking legislators to continue the bipartisan cooperation often referred to as “the Virginia way.”
“Common ground doesn’t move toward us. We move towards it,” he said.
However, in outlining his agenda, McAuliffe also continued to emphasize policies that may be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and an evenly divided state Senate.
One of McAuliffe’s top priorities is expanding Medicaid eligibility using the federal dollars provided in the Affordable Care Act.
“We need to act on the consensus of the business community and the health care industry to accept funding that will expand health care coverage, save rural hospitals and spur job creation,” he said.
McAuliffe said he would also work with the legislature to continue to reform the state’s Medicaid system.
During the weekly Republican Party of Virginia address on Sunday, Del. Steven Landes (R-Dist. 25) indicated that Republicans will continue to strongly push back against Medicaid expansion. They have said that the existing system needs to be reformed before expansion can even be considered.
“Separate from ObamaCare, Medicaid is in need of serious reforms. Costs are out of control, Medicaid patients aren’t receiving the care they need and the program is full of waste, fraud and abuse,” Landes said.
Landes contends that it will be impossible for the federal government to fully fund Medicaid as promised and that Virginia will get stuck with the bill.
McAuliffe also emphasized job creation and economic growth as his top priority, including reducing Virginia’s reliance on the federal government, launching efforts to help military veterans find jobs and supporting job-training programs at community colleges throughout the state.
“My top priority will be to lay the groundwork for a diverse and growing economy in every corner of the Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said.
Amid all his talk of bipartisan cooperation, the governor still threw a few lines of his speech to his more liberal base.
He talked about access to higher education for the children of immigrants, preventing job discrimination against people who are gay and assuring women’s reproductive rights.
“An open and welcoming state is critical in a 21st century economy,” he said.
McAuliffe’s first executive order prohibited employment discrimination in state agencies, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The order also asks hiring managers “to emphasize the recruitment of qualified minorities, women, disabled persons, and older Virginians to serve at all levels of state government.”
His second executive order was a wide-ranging gift ban for members of the executive branch and their families. It bans gifts valued at more than $100 and establishes the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to oversee implementation of the gift ban.
He also signed two, more routine, executive orders — delegating powers to his chief of staff in case of an emergency and establishing the power of the governor to declare a state of emergency.