March 12, 2014
Partisan gridlock in Richmond could affect the health insurance of hundreds of thousands of Virginias, state Democrats say, but Republicans counter that the budget battle has nothing to do with a possible Medicaid expansion.
"The House Republicans are basically the only group saying no, no and no," said Del. David Toscano (D-57th District), the House Minority Leader.
Lawmakers left Richmond last weekend without passing a budget, and the primary issue is whether Medicaid eligibility should be expanded.
"If we're going to embrace a concept that brings back the millions of dollars, money that we're sending to Washington and use it for local hospitals and to insure our people in need, it's got to be appropriated," Toscano said. "The only place it gets appropriated is in the budget."
Republicans said they want to set Medicaid aside and pass a budget without including appropriations.
Last weekend, Del. Rob Bell (R-58th District) spoke with the Newsplex on his return home from the General Assembly session and said Republicans are willing to debate Medicaid so long as the budget is passed first.
"The concern of those of us who are opposed to it is we're still taking federal dollars, we don't believe the federal dollars will always be there," Bell said. "This program is already growing very, very quickly, and we're just afraid it's not financially sustainable."
Democrats say without incorporating Medicaid expansion, Virginia taxpayers are throwing away $5 million a day -- money that goes to help other states close their budget gaps.
"I think most constituents do not think it makes good business sense to send millions of dollars in taxpayer money out of Virginia that we could use back here," Toscano said.
The General Assembly will return on March 24 for a special session to come up with a two-year budget. If they don't reach one by the summer, the statewide government could face a shutdown.