The sudden resignation of Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett has created new dynamics in the three-month-long budget stalemate between the two chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. The Senate now has 20 Republicans and 19 Democrats, and that could ultimately result in its re-organization with the GOP in charge. Lawmakers took part in active discussions regarding the next steps the Senate should take, and how to move the budget forward.
The Senators expressed a sense of urgency. Democratic Senate budget conferee Janet Howell said on the agenda was cutting the budget to bridge a 1.3-billion-dollar revenue shortfall.
“The cuts are in every secretariat. And they’re significant everywhere.”
Republican Senate Finance Committee Co-chair Walter Stosch said 700 million dollars in cuts were proposed.
“We cannot spend money we do not have, so we looked first at where the new funding commitments were made and are retreating from that. In no instance is someone receiving less funding—we were just looking at the increase.”
New mental health funding was spared, and the Rainy Day Fund would cover the rest of the shortfall. Senators have not given up on Marketplace Virginia, the private-insurance alternative to Medicaid expansion. The plan now is to vote on that in a separate bill, which also changes the membership and mission of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission. Twenty GOP Senators and one Democrat signed a letter to order the reconvening of the Special Session on Thursday. If the budget passes with the proposed cuts, it could soon be sent to conference committee.