The House of Delegates took a first formal step to end Virginia’s budget impasse by again endorsing a version of Medicaid expansion.
Members of the House Tuesday passed a budget essentially the same as the one the state Senate rejected during the regular session.
But this version includes some tweaks aimed at wooing Senate Republican support for Medicaid expansion.
But one Democrat, Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, did. He spoke out against the latest version’s tougher rules on a work requirement, and opposed the budget.
The House vote moves the budget with Medicaid expansion back to the Senate.
“It’s like groundhog day, here we are again,” said Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, arguing against the budget on the grounds that Medicaid expansion has cost other states more than expected.
If there’s no budget agreed by June 30, the state government would shut down.
The budget the House approved Tuesday includes some changes to the regular session version.
Those changes — including the toughened work requirement for able-bodied adult Medicaid recipients that Rasoul opposed and an effort to bring down the cost of Obamacare insurance policies — were meant to address Senate Republicans’ concerns.
That impasse is all about a sharp difference between a majority of a narrowly divided House, where all 49 Democrats and a minority of the Republican caucus want to expand Medicaid, and all 21 Republicans that form a slim majority in the state Senate.
The budget the House passed during the regular General Assembly relied on billions of dollars of federal Affordable Care Act funds and a new hospital tax to expand Medicaid. That budget shifted hundreds of millions of costs that now fall entirely on the state to Medicaid, primarily including mental health and medical care for the indigent and prisoners. That in turn freed up funds for a variety of politically popular measures, including a 2 percent pay increase for teachers and state employees for fiscal year 2020.
The Senate refused to go along. Its version carved out the Medicaid expansion funding, the cost shifting and the new spending in the House budget.
The next formal step after Tuesday’s House vote is for the Senate to consider the new proposed House budget and its use of Medicaid expansion funds. Unless at least two Senate Republicans change their minds, it will be up to about a dozen senior legislators to negotiate a budget.
Ress can be reached by telephone at 757-247-4535