Today is day 80 of Governor Terry McAuliffe's Obamacare budget impasse. For 80 days, Governor McAuliffe and the Democrat-controlled Senate have refused to pass a state budget unless it includes Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. They are holding hostage funding for schools, first responders and local governments, and threatening Virginia's AAA bond rating over one of the most controversial political issues in decades.
Now, Virginia localities are preparing for the worst.
Some local government officials in Virginia are starting to consider contingency plans for worst case scenarios as a budget impasse drags on toward a possible unprecedented state shutdown on July 1. There are concerns that state government offices could be shut down if a budget isn't passed. The effect will also be felt locally because Virginia provides more than $8 billion a year to cities and counties to help pay for public schools, law enforcement salaries and mental health services.Lee County in the southwest receives one of the highest shares of state aid. It lost it's only hospital last year.Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles Slemp Jr. said he's a longtime Republican who sides with McAuliffe on Medicaid expansion, saying his constituents need the help.
But Slemp that while he'd like to see Medicaid eligibility expanded, he'd rather have a state budget passed first. "Go ahead and pass the budget, let's get going with it," said Slemp, who added that Lee County has delayed passage of its own budget while it waits for the state.
Regardless of how you feel about Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, there is no justification for holding up the entire budget over a single issue, especially one as controversial as Obamacare. Virginia's teachers, first responders, and state employees are too important to be caught in the crossfire of a political fight. Candidate McAuliffe was right when he said "stop using the threat of a government shutdown as a bargaining chip in other negotiations, including over the healthcare law."
The clear path forward is to set Medicaid expansion aside and pass a budget now. Over 100 local governments, school boards, business groups and local elected officials have passed resolutions or written letters calling on the Governor to separate Medicaid expansion from the budget. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce says we should "set aside" any issues that may create an impasse. It's time to end the stalemate. Governor McAuliffe should drop his demands for Obamacare and let Virginia pass a budget.