The ongoing Medicaid expansion political chokehold that has seized control of Richmond is both frustrating and frightening. As the birthplace of our nation, we Virginians hold our elected officials to a higher standard. We expect our leaders to guide the Commonwealth forward on a path of common sense governance and prudent fiscal responsibility. We expect our leaders to be able to hold a conversation on the pressing matters of the day without it devolving into name calling and Washington-style politics. And we expect our leaders to know the difference between a principled fight and politics as usual. Unfortunately, the very real issue of whether or not to commit the Commonwealth to significant future financial constraints has shown that many of our leaders are unable to live up to our expectations.
As a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, I was the lone vote against our Board’s endorsement of Medicaid expansion in Virginia. I made that vote after I attempted to amend our endorsement to call for the passage of a clean budget bill; that failed 2-7 with one abstention. In my comments, I pointed out that this Medicaid fight could directly jeopardize $500 million in state aid to Fairfax County and our public schools; a fact affirmed by our staff. I cannot begin to imagine the disastrous impacts to our Commonwealth’s smaller jurisdictions should aid from Richmond be delayed. Everything would be affected from public safety to schools to the human services safety net provided by the Commonwealth and its localities.
Every spring, local governments around the Commonwealth advertise, debate, and adopt a budget. However, not a single local government in Virginia would be as reckless as Richmond and set out on a course of government shutdown because of an ideological difference of opinion. As elected officials we know how to move from the rough and tumble of political campaigning to leading and engaging in solutions for our constituent’s best interests. Contrary to Governor McAuliffe’s recent campaign promise to not play politics with the budget, he and his fellow Senate Democrats have repeatedly threatened that they will shut down the not only the state government, but also many local governments who rely on significant funding from Richmond, if not given their way on Medicaid expansion. This is the sad state in which we find ourselves when just a few short months ago Governor McAuliffe used his inaugural address to call for Virginians to find “common ground” to solve our most pressing problem.
The Medicaid expansion issue has been thrust upon Virginians in an effort to sharply divide our leaders in Richmond. Clearly there are opinions on both sides but the sad reality is that the people of Virginia are pawns in this political game of brinksmanship. Governor McAuliffe should use his position as Virginia’s chief executive officer to walk us back from this disaster, to settle the future for the coming year in our counties, cities and towns and take the Washington-style politics out of Virginia. Then we can find common ground.
Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors