Thu February 20, 2014
The Tale of Two Budgets
It was budget day at the State Capitol. The House and Senate mull over and pass their respective budget proposals, which are then sent to the opposite chambers. That's typically when the lines in the sand are drawn. Although each version makes significant changes in former Governor McDonnell's 96-billion dollar draft, the lines were drawn well before today over one issue—Medicaid expansion.
The Senate budget creates "Marketplace Virginia," a state exchange to cover thousands of the low-income uninsured with private health insurance. It would seek a federal waiver to get back more than half of 2.9 billion in taxes paid under the Affordable Care Act. The House version adds millions of dollars to hospitals and clinics but does not rely on ACA reimbursements. House Democratic Leader David Toscano says Republican delegates have gutted McDonnell's proposals, which will likely underfund core services.
Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment says his caucus is focusing on promoting Virginia as a pro-business state. And while he says Medicaid expansion is a huge sticking point, it should not block progress.
Both budgets invest millions more into mental health services and provide some type of pay raise for state workers, but vary on some education initiatives.