New Budget Approved

Friends,

Last night, Senate Republicans took back control of the Senate Chamber and passed a clean budget that did not include Medicaid Expansion.  The budget gridlock, which has kept the citizens of our Commonwealth in needless suspense and anxiety since March, ended convincingly late last night during a special General Assembly session.  Assuming the Governor signs the new two-year budget next week, local governments can now breathe a sigh of relief that a new budget will most certainly be in place on July 1st as scheduled. As a result, the state’s vast education systems, city and county law enforcement departments, the multitude of EMS resources, and all other local government agencies can continue operations without the threat of interruption.

The reason for the seismic change in the budget stalemate is very clear. The Senate majority changed hands earlier this week and as a result of the return of Republicans to leadership in the Senate, the budget is no longer being held hostage by the Senate Democrats. Republican Senators took our responsibility to Virginia seriously; we were prepared to go back to work immediately, and were resolved to complete the job. In contrast, the announcement that two Senate Democrat budget conferees had planned to be on vacation for much of June, and the Rules Chairman saying the Senate would not reconvene until June 24th – clearly demonstrated that approving a budget was clearly not a priority for the former majority caucus.

Within 24 hours of regaining the majority, Senate Republicans (and Senator Colgan [D-29]) called the Senate back into session and back to work.  On the same day the Senate was in special session for the first time in over two months, a budget was approved.

Both legislative bodies had opposing views on how to address the Medicaid Expansion issue. The Senate Democrats, along with the backing of the Governor, were in favor of Medicaid Expansion and by tying it to the new budget, they believed they could force this new legislation on to the citizens of Virginia. The House of Delegates however has consistently stood firm on its insistence that Medicaid Expansion must first be de-coupled from the new budget and addressed as a separate issue.

I strongly had pushed to de-couple Expansion from the budget and to enter into debate in both the House and Senate on Medicaid alternatives, and push for comprehensive reform of the Healthcare Industry in order to make quality and affordable health care available to all citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I sponsored an amendment that was drafted and co-patroned by all 20 Senate Republicans which stated that Medicaid expansion cannot be implemented unless the legislature appropriates the money to do so.  This amendment passed 20-19. We need to seriously look at health care and its delivery systems. The budget should not be held hostage for political games. We have a constitutional obligation to the people of Virginia to have a balanced budget and on time. I look forward to an open debate on the issues where we can find Virginia solutions to these important issues.

While we had to reduce or eliminate most of the new spending in the budget, we were able to keep funding for our localities at current levels. Noticeable changes include the unfortunate elimination of the 2% compensation increase for teachers and various reductions in hospital subsidies as well as other cuts. However, it does preserve funding for our local schools and public safety.

Due to a continuing unstable national economy, our state faces revenue shortfalls that may exceed $1.6 Billion over the next three years; however, Republicans were able to deliver a budget that is balanced, fully addresses the revised revenue estimates, does not include funding for Medicaid expansion, does not allow the Governor to expand Medicaid without General Assembly approval, and was approved on time and without having to raise taxes on the citizens of Virginia.

By law, Virginia’s General Assembly, unlike the Federal Government, must develop and operate the Commonwealth under a balanced budget.  The difficult decisions are being made to ensure that our spending does not exceed the revenues and that the tax payers’ money is being spent prudently and efficiently.  Both Chambers have approved a final budget that meets these goals.

Warmest Regards,

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