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Medicaid expansion, state budget talks continue

Jeremy Lazarus | 4/13/2018, 7:53 a.m.
Virginia’s budget impasse remained unresolved Wednesday as the Virginia House and Senate adjourned about 90 minutes into the special session ...

Virginia’s budget impasse remained unresolved Wednesday as the Virginia House and Senate adjourned about 90 minutes into the special session called by Gov. Ralph S. Northam without taking any action.

Despite the outward lack of progress, the legislature appears to be moving toward a settlement of the major issue — expansion of Medicaid to the 300,000 to 400,000 low-income Virginians who cannot afford health insurance.

During the past week, Republican state Sens. Emmett Hanger of Harrisonburg and Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach publicly expressed a willingness to break ranks and back the expansion.

Each has indicated they plan to vote for Medicaid expansion, flipping the Senate from 21-19 against to 21-19 for expansion. However, both have put conditions on their support, which may require a rewrite of the House-prepared budget plan.

When the General Assembly originally adjourned March 10, the 21 Republican senators all voted to block a House budget plan that included Medicaid expansion.

The 19 Democratic senators all supported the expansion, which also has the backing of Gov. Ralph S. Northam.

“The House of Delegates is … eager to produce a balanced budget as soon as possible,” House Speaker Kirk Cox said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

The House Appropriations Committee will meet at 2 p.m. Friday, April 13, to continue working on its version of the state budget, Delegate Cox stated, with the full House reconvening at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, to pass the budget and send it to the Senate before the veto session on Wednesday, April 18.

“Our goal is to work as efficiently as possible to get the House and Senate in a committee of conference to begin discussions on the budget,” he said.

The budget needs to be in place by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown on July 1.