RICHMOND, VA - In a letter to House and Senate budget conferees, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce is urging lawmakers to "set aside any issue that may create an impasse" and pass a timely state budget. Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell issued the following statement Friday: "This letter is a strong and clear indication that the business community believes the best path forward is for the General Assembly to set aside the debate over Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and fulfill our obligation to pass a state budget. The Chamber is also explicitly rejecting the Governor's current proposal to expand the traditional Medicaid program.
"Governor McAuliffe and Senate Democrats have delayed the state budget for 20 days now. They have wrongly injected a separate and distinct policy debate into budget discussions. They have admitted on multiple occasions they are using the budget as leverage in an effort to expand Obamacare in Virginia.
"Their actions have created tremendous uncertainty for our local governments, school boards, institutions of higher education and the business community, as well as threatened Virginia's AAA bond rating.
"The Chamber is joining over 50 local governments, school boards and local elected leaders representing over 3.8 million Virginians in calling for the Governor to decouple Medicaid expansion from the state budget.
"Holding the budget hostage over any issue, especially one as controversial as Obamacare, is wrong. Republicans and Democrats disagree on Obamacare, but that disagreement should not delay funding for our teachers, roads, public safety officials and local governments.
"It's time to end the gridlock. We can continue the ongoing and vigorous debate over Obamacare in a separate special session after we have completed work on the state budget."