VA house delegates march to empty senate chambers, urging budget - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

VA house delegates march to empty senate chambers, urging budget action

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Virginia House Republicans marched into the Senate chambers carrying a sign saying "Gone Home" late Tuesday night.

The House passed its budget Tuesday night and is urging the Senate to do the same. However, the Senate chamber was empty. The Senate has been in recess for two weeks.

Republican delegates passed their version of the budget, excluding a huge expansion of Medicaid in Virginia. Democratic senators say Medicaid health coverage is desperately needed by hundreds of thousands of Virginians, along with time to digest the governor's new plans for it.

Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell says Medicaid should not be pushed into the budget.

"(Medicaid expansion is) creating a big, new entitlement and that's the kind of legislation that really shouldn't be in budget, hasn't been in budget in past years... and should be debated, discussed at special session," said Howell.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe introduced his budget Monday, battling in favor of the Medicaid expansion.

He's backed by the Democratic Senators, who are now taking time to comb through the new plans, according to Democratic Senator Donald McEachin.

"We're not supposed to just, sort of in the dark of night, dismiss the governor's budget... and say okay, ‘We're done with that,'" said McEachin.

McEachin says expanding Medicaid is critical for Virginians who currently don't qualify for it, but can't afford other kinds of heath care.

"I don't know why this is such a stalemate issue. It seems obvious to me that 400,000 working Virginians need health insurance," continued McEachin.

However, Republicans want budget action now, as the deadline approaches, and Medicaid reform later.

"The House is ready to get it done," continued Howell.

McEachin counters that the public deserves time to understand the governor's plans. "It's important that the people of Virginia to understand what the governor has put in the budget."

Republican House delegates also stress localities can't complete their budgets until they know how much funding they'll get from the state.

On April 1st at 2 p.m. the VA senate will host a public hearing on the governor's budget and Medicaid expansion in the General Assembly building.

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