McAuliffe again proposes Medicaid expansion in budget

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s final budget once again proposes using Obamacare dollars and a tax on hospitals to expand Medicaid to cover at least 300,000 uninsured Virginians.

His budget for the two years beginning July 1, 2018, says that money will save the state nearly $422 million over that time, in part by shifting costs to Medicaid that the state already incurs, including for mental health care and medical care for prisoners.

The savings exceeds some top spending priorities that both the governor and the General Assembly have already set, including setting up a new cash reserve to protect the state’s triple-A bond rating, same-day access for mental health evaluations at Community Services Boards, tackling the opioid epidemic and boosting the state’s economic development.

But costs the state can’t dodge would make affording these difficult without the Obamacare dollars, the budget suggests.

While McAuliffe’s budget appears to link Medicaid expansion to funding some top priorities of the General Assembly, Norment said he’s not sure how closely Medicaid expansion would be linked to funding for those priorities.

“We’re going to take the governor’s budget as we always do and we’re going to write our budget,” Norment said.

In his remarks to the committees, McAuliffe also highlighted proposals to fund planning work necessary to speed the flow of federal funds to dredge ship channels in the Port of Virginia, as well as an additional $45.5 million slated for financial aid to in-state undergraduates at state colleges and universities, a $20 million increase in state support for local police, and appropriations of more than $7 million each to make every elementary school in the state, even the smallest, have a full-time principal and an effort to help at-risk students.

Norment noted than many of the governor’s proposals, as has been the past with other governors presenting their final budgets, commit funds for the second year of the budget — fiscal year 2020, in this case, which is when the 2 percent raises for state employees and teachers would occur.

“Governors can do that, but we have to be cautious,” he said.

Ress can be reached by telephone at 757-247-4535

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