The House and Senate money committees have unveiled their biennial budget proposals. One includes funding and a plan for expanding Medicaid, the other does not.
The House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees rolled out their separate spending plans in separate, packed committee rooms over the weekend.
At the first meeting, House Appropriations Chair Chris Jones acknowledged that he and many of his other Republican colleagues previously objected to Medicaid expansion. The House plan calls for the state to prepare its system for Medicaid expansion while Virginia seeks the Trump administration’s approval to implement the types reforms recently OK’d in Kentucky and Indiana. The plan would tie expanded coverage to work, education and training requirements and would also require Medicaid recipients to pay for part of their own medical expenses in order to start and maintain coverage.
The expansion proposal comes after years of resistance, followed by a so-called “Democratic wave” election that shrank the Republican majority. “There’s no question that the political dynamics have changed,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) after the chamber approved it’s budget bill Sunday (2/18).
But Cox says the new Medicaid expansion plan is also the result of positive negotiations with Governor Ralph Northam. Delegate Mark Sickles was among Democrats who told reporters the work requirement is a reasonable condition for Medicaid expansion.
The House spending plan was approved 20-2, with Delegates Chris Head and Charles Poindexter voting against the bill. Augusta County Delegate Steve Landes voted for the bill with a noted objection to its Medicaid expansion provisions.
Meanwhile the Senate’s unanimously-approved budget contains no Medicaid expansion. The chambers’ different positions on the issue means budget reconciliation talks between the House and Senate will include addressing this more than $400 million disagreement. Senate Majority Leader and Finance Committee Co-Chair Tommy Norment says he expects “spirited” discussions when the two chambers get together to reconcile their spending plans.
The chambers have a Thursday deadline to pass their respective budgets. After that, the two bills are likely to be sorted out by a handful of members in conference.