Loudoun County Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) is urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to get in the trenches of the state budget fight playing out in Richmond and across the commonwealth.
In a March 8 letter, sent the day of the General Assembly's adjournment without passage of a budget, York asks that McAuliffe not let a single issue -- namely, Medicaid expansion -- prevent the governor from working with state lawmakers to approve a budget.
“Without timely action on the state budget by both the state legislative and executive branches, local government budget decision-making is nearly impossible to finalize, and the threat of a July 1 shutdown of nonessential state operations a real possibility,” York wrote.
The Loudoun chairman, writing on behalf of his Board of Supervisors, said he wanted to remind McAuliffe of “several rapidly approaching deadlines that affect Loudoun County, as with most localities,” including: “every local government must approve a budget and fix its tax rate by July 1”; “every locality is required by law to adopt its annual school budget by May 1, or at least 30 days after receiving an estimate of State aide, whichever is later”; and “all local school divisions must notify its teachers of any reductions in force due to a decrease in the school budget … no later than June 1.”
While Virginia's governor has veto power over a proposed state budget, it's officially left to the General Assembly to finalize a spending plan. It's unclear whether York, who did not respond to requests for comment for this story, sent a similar letter to leaders in the Democratic-led state Senate or the GOP-dominated House of Delegates.
McAuliffe has called a special General Assembly session for the two chambers to return to Richmond to hash out budget differences, primarily the ongoing fight over Medicaid. The special session, which begins March 24, is estimated to last three weeks.
One element of the federal Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion has been a key platform issue for the new governor since his campaign. During a stop at Loudoun's Inova hospital in late February, McAuliffe said expansion “is the right thing to do socially, morally and economically.”
Today, McAuliffe spokeswoman Rachel Thomas said the governor is hopeful “House Republicans can put politics aside and sit down with him to work out a compromise.”
“Currently, Medicaid is 20 percent of the state budget, and both the House and Senate included in their respective budgets saving from Medicaid reforms, so efforts to separate the two are merely stalling tactics,” Thomas said. “The governor urges House Republicans to come to the table to pass a budget that closes the coverage gap as soon as possible so we can avoid uncertainty, enable 400,000 Virginians to access quality healthcare, and save $1 billion to our state budget over the next eight years.”
When asked what steps Gov. McAuliffe has taken to find a resolution in the budget battle, Thomas said the governor has “been in continuous contact with members of the Senate.”
The McAuliffe spokeswoman added, “The governor has been traveling across the commonwealth, visiting hospitals, clinics, and meeting with healthcare providers and patients to hear how important closing the coverage gap is for our health care facilities' bottom lines and for the health of our citizens.”
Virginia Republicans have relentlessly attacked Democrats for “using the state budget as a bargaining chip” for Medicaid.
Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell (R-28th) highlighted York's letter on the Republican House Caucus' website, calling attention to the fact York represents the fourth largest jurisdiction in the commonwealth.
“Loudoun County joins a growing chorus of local governments urging the governor to separate the issue of Medicaid expansion from the budget,” the website reads, noting that the City of Virginia Beach, Shenandoah County, New Kent County and the City of Colonial Heights have all adopted resolutions to separate the two items.
Democrats, meanwhile, have continued to press Republicans to “close the coverage gap” and expand Medicaid coverage to as many as 400,000 low- and middle-income Virginians.
Click here to read Scott York's letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.