RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) — Virginia legislators are returning to Richmond to do what they failed to do in March — pass a state budget.
The Senate and the House of Delegates convene Thursday evening to enact a two-year spending plan and end an impasse that had threatened to partially shut down state government.
Lawmakers will have to slash spending and tap into the state’s savings account to close a budget shortfall approaching $1.6 billion.
The budget stalemate was caused by a disagreement between Democrats, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who wanted to expand Medicaid and Republicans who refused. The logjam broke when Democratic Sen. Phil Puckett resigned, giving Republicans a one-seat advantage in the Senate.
Governor McAuliffe toured the state recently, repeatedly telling voters that expanding Medicaid would provide healthcare for 400,000 Virginians not currently covered and create 30,000 new jobs.
WIthout expansion he argues Virginian stands to lose 26 billion dollars over the next 8 years.
WAVY News’ Stephanie Harris talked to McAuliffe Thursday in Norfolk and asked about his plans to fight for his top priority.
“I am just hoping that common sense and business sense will prevail, put the partisan politics aside, let’s compromise and let’s get this done,” said McAuliffe.
Harris asked Republican Senator Jeff McWaters of Virginia Beach what his response would be if McAuliffe seeks out an executive action to bypass the legislature.
“I would say that he would be ill advised to do that kind of on his own, I think from a constitutional perspective, but also just from a budget perspective, because it’s really impossible to expand Medicaid without the use of state dollars,” said McWaters.
McWaters says it’s hard to say what the Governor will do.
“The Governor can call us back into a special session, that’s his prerogative, to debate the merits of expanding Medicaid, and that’s most likely what I think he would do,” he said.
The current budget expires when the fiscal year ends June 30.