Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has announced his proposed amendments to the budget that was introduced by former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) just before his term ended.
McAuliffe proposed nine amendments to the current fiscal year budget and 19 amendments to the proposed budget for fiscal 2015 and 2016.
In addition to adjusting fiscal priorities, McAuliffe is asking for authority to implement the Medicaid expansion that was part of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Last year, the General Assembly set up a commission to study whether Virginia should accept the federal dollars and expand Medicaid coverage to about 400,000 additional people. That commission has yet to issue its final recommendation.
McAuliffe’s amendment would allow the governor to act if the commission fails to make a decision by the end of the General Assembly session. McAuliffe campaigned on the Medicaid expansion and continues to cite it as a top priority, although many Republicans in the state legislature oppose it.
In a statement, McAuliffe said the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission should still be the body to make the decision but that each day of delay costs Virginia $5 million and leaves the 400,000 people who might be eligible for Medicaid in an uncertain situation.
“That is why I hope the General Assembly will transfer the authority to make this important decision to the governor in the event that the MIRC does not act by the end of this session. These families have waited long enough,” McAuliffe said.
Many of the governor’s other proposed amendments reflect technical corrections, such as an error in calculating the school-age population for this fiscal year that McAuliffe’s office says represents $1.3 million in savings.
Several other amendments would restore funding for education-related spending that were cut in McDonnell’s proposed budget.
“These amendments reflect my commitment to growing and diversifying our economy, creating jobs, and improving the services that this Commonwealth offers its residents, such as education, public safety and health care,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe would like to restore funding that provides additional dollars for school support staff salaries in Northern Virginia, recognizing the higher cost of living here.
Other education-related proposals include increased funding for school construction loans, a “hold harmless” provision for any school districts expected to lose funding this year under state formulas and an increase in funds for a jobs training program for at-risk youth.
Additional amendments would restore a funding reduction for court-appointed special advocates, a program that trains volunteers to help represent children in abuse and neglect court cases, and would provide additional funding to support state police vehicle needs.
The General Assembly will consider McAuliffe’s proposals as it works on the budget during the course of the session, which ends in early March.