Virginia Public Radio is reporting that the three-month budget impasse has ended.
The Virginia General Assembly met until the early hours of Friday morning and passed a state budget that takes effect July 1st --and closes a $1.6 billion revenue shortfall. The bill generally preserves the current funding levels of Fiscal Year 2014, while cutting most of the $842 million of proposed funding increases that passed earlier this year. The bill also eliminates the Senate plan for Marketplace Virginia, the private-insurance alternative to Medicaid expansion, which had prompted the budget stalemate with the House.
But the vote was delayed for hours over language that some called “ambiguous”…which GOP Senators said could potentially allow Governor McAuliffe to expand Medicaid on his own. Republicans proposed amendments to require the General Assembly to approve all funding to expand Medicaid under the federal healthcare law.
The amendments were approved. The budget maintains a $340 million state re-benchmarking increase for K-12 public education, and $50 million in additional funds for mental health services. It cuts the state employee pay raises, but preserves $350 million dollars in state contributions for pensions for state workers and teachers. It eliminates proposed higher ed increases, but includes debt-service funding on existing college capital projects so that they will not be frozen. The budget bill now goes to Governor McAuliffe, who has seven days to review it.
In a written statement after the vote, McAuliffe said that he would take the actions on Medicaid expansion that he deems necessary. He also vowed that “this fight is far from over. This is the right thing to do for Virginia, and I will not rest until we get it done.” The Governor could veto the budget. Or he could propose amendments to the bill to authorize Medicaid expansion OR allow him to expand it administratively. The General Assembly would then need to approve his amendments by a simple majority.