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Sean Gorman
By Sean Gorman June 20, 2014

Will sign budget with no Medicaid expansion

Terry McAuliffe did not equivocate about expanding Medicaid when he ran for governor last year.

He called on the General Assembly to take advantage of Obamacare provisions that would qualify as many 400,000 additional low-income and disabled Virginians for Medicaid. The federal government would pay all of the costs through 2016 and 90 percent down the road.

"I will not sign a budget in Virginia unless the Medicaid expansion is included," McAuliffe said during a June 1, 2013 dinner speech to fellow Democrats in Loudoun County. He repeated the vow often.

But that promise ran into a stiff challenge after McAuliffe took office this January. The Republican-led House of Delegates refused to expand Medicaid, saying the system is rife with waste and the federal government can't be trusted to pay its promised shares. The Senate, then narrowly controlled by Democrats, backed expansion. The result was a stalemate in passing a two-year state budget that goes into effect July 1.

The impasse cracked earlier this month when Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, abruptly announced his resignation and gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the chamber. The stalemate broke on June 13 when three GOP senators, previously in support of broadening Medicaid, switched their positions. The Senate, on a party line vote, then joined the House in passing a budget without Medicaid expansion in it.

On Friday, McAuliffe announced that he would reluctantly sign the budget, saying his hand was forced by the approaching end of the fiscal year and that he was unwilling to continue a stalemate that imperiled funding for state and local programs.

"Frankly if it were not June 20, with only 10 days left in the fiscal year, I may well have vetoed the entire budget, but given the severe difficulties the General Assembly had in getting even this weak budget to me, I seriously doubt they could have prepared a budget in the next week without disrupting or impairing critical services," McAuliffe said at a news conference.

McAuliffe made clear that he remains committed to expanding Medicaid. He said he will issue line-item vetoes of two provisions in the budget that would prevent the governor from unilaterally broadening the program. It's unlikely that the Senate will be able to muster a two-thirds majority to override the McAuliffe's action. Republicans are questioning the legality of at least one of the vetoes, saying it's a "language amendment" that's not tied to specific appropriation.

McAuliffe is working on the specifics of how to expand Medicaid without the General Assembly's consent. He's asked Secretary of Health Bill Hazel to come up with a plan by Sept. 1. Republicans, we should note, say the governor can't expand Medicaid through administrative action.

After the news conference, Brian Coy, a McAuliffe spokesman, acknowledged that McAuliffe will sign a budget -- perhaps as late as Sunday --without Medicaid expansion in it.

And that brings us back to McAuliffe's campaign vow, which got a lot of attention last year. For better or worse, this clearly rates as a Promise Broken.


Our Sources

YouTube video of McAuliffe's speech at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner, June 1,  2013.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe's comments at news conference, June 20, 2014.

Interview with Brian Coy, spokesman for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, June 20, 2014.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, "Statement of Governor Terence McAuliffe on 2015-2016 budget actions," June 20, 204.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Cuccinelli says McAuliffe threatened to shut down state government over Medicaid," Oct. 11, 2013.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Virginia lawmakers pass budget that thwarts Medicaid expansion," June 12, 2014.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Va. Senate thwarts Medicaid expansion," June 13, 2014.

Bill Stanley for Senate, statement on Gov. Terry McAuliffe's budget announcement, June 20, 2014.

Sen. William Stanley Jr. amendment to the state budget, June 12, 2014.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "McAuliffe says 'tea party took over the General Assembly," June 13, 2014.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Assembly takes up vetoes amid budget impasse," April 23, 2014.

The Washington Post, "Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoes portions of Virginia budget, vows to expand Medicaid," June 20, 2014.

Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, "Senate Republicans on Governor McAuliffe's intended actions on budget," June 20, 2013.

Virginia House Republican Leadership, "Statement of House Republican leadership on Governor Terry McAuliffe's budget actions," June 20, 2014.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Budget impasse remains as both houses recess," Aprl 9, 2014.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Budget leaders reach tentative deal to manage $1.55B shortfall," June 11, 2014.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Senate panel backs budget with private health option," April 7, 2014.

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