Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced this morning he will sign a two-year state budget void of Medicaid expansion, thus avoiding a government shutdown, but not before using his line-item veto authority to nix several controversial provisions within the spending plan.
At a press conference in Richmond just before noon, McAuliffe assailed House Republicans for what he characterized as “turning their backs” on the people of Virginia. The Virginia GOP’s answer to every modest proposal, McAuliffe said, was a “resounding no.”
McAuliffe said the commonwealth will “move forward” on expanding health care to Virginians, and he tasked Health and Human Services Secretary Bill Hazel with providing a clear plan by Sept. 1. The plan will “tailor how we move forward with health care in the face of the demagoguery, the lies, the fear and cowardice that have gripped this debate for far too long.”
Included within McAuliffe’s planned vetoes are striking a floor amendment to the budget bill that limited the governor’s power to advance Medicaid expansion, and eliminating the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, or MIRC, created last year to usher in expansion.
It has become clear, the governor said, that the commission is “merely a sham to pretend that the legislature is actually doing something to help people.”
Republican lawmakers responded Friday by saying they will examine McAuliffe’s vetoes and take what they see as the necessary action when the House reconvenes Monday.
“The Constitution and Supreme Court proscribe specific limits on the Governor’s line-item veto authority,” the GOP statement reads. “We will review these vetoes to determine if they fall within the narrow scope of that authority, and once that review is complete the House will act accordingly. The governor has no authority to expand Medicaid unilaterally or without the specific approval of the General Assembly.”
All year leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates has resolutely opposed Medicaid expansion in any form, bringing to a halt budget negotiations between those conservatives and Democrats in favor of growing the entitlement program.
A breakthrough in the talks came June 9 when former state Sen. Phil Puckett abruptly resigned his seat, sparking controversy and tipping power in the upper house from Democrats to the GOP.
A week ago, the General Assembly approved a two-year budget that did not include Medicaid expansion. In addition to the power-shift, lawmakers were nudged to action by a growing state revenue shortfall, now estimated at $1.5 billion. Without approving a budget, the state isn’t allowed to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in the commonwealth’s rainy day fund.
While Republicans hostile to Obamacare have decried the state’s Medicaid program as inefficient and too costly, Democrats have underscored that the commonwealth is foregoing an estimated $5 million in federal funds every day the state declines expansion.
Expanding Medicaid has been estimated to provide health care to as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians while also bringing hundreds of millions in federal tax dollars back into state coffers.