The Virginia Senate has passed its version of the state budget for the next two fiscal years, which begin on July 1st.
Senators introduced the spending bill proposed by Governor McAuliffe, then added their own touches— including Marketplace Virginia, the private-insurance alternative to Medicaid expansion. But by the end of the day the Senate and the House were no closer to resolving their budget stalemate.
The House passed and sent its budget to the Senate last month, but Senators did not vote on or amend that bill. One privately said it was to stop Speaker Bill Howell from ruling that Marketplace Virginia was not germane and could not be added to the House bill. The Speaker says he needs to see the language before he would know. Senator Emmett Hanger noted that the Senate budget removes the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission's power to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid. “The Marketplace Virginia plan is authorized to go forward if we adopt this language.” But Senator Mark Obenshain warned that lawmakers would lose their authority if the Marketplace does not get the federal waivers it needs. “This has the potential to place in the Governor’s hand the ability to unilaterally expand Medicaid here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The Senate budget also includes additional funds for land conservation, the intellectually and developmentally disabled, a two-percent pay raise for state workers and teachers, and line-of-duty subsidies for fallen first responders. For a budget to be approved, the same bill must pass both houses of the General Assembly. OR the same bill that’s passed each chamber in different forms must be sent to a Conference Committee. House conferees said late Tuesday that the Senate needs to take action on the house bill before the budget can move forward.