McAuliffe proposes Medicaid expansion, state worker raises in budget

Published: Dec. 18, 2017 at 10:15 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2017 at 11:44 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Before he leaves office next month, Governor McAuliffe is again calling to expand Medicaid in a two-year budget proposal he laid out Monday.

Speaking before a joint meeting of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee, McAuliffe also proposed a pay raise for state workers and teachers, and money to shore up the state's rainy day fund.

"My budget will expand Medicaid for the Commonwealth of Virginia," McAuliffe announced to a packed committee room in the Pocahontas Building in Richmond.

One last try before he leaves office, Governor McAuliffe is again pushing to expand Medicaid to 400,000 more Virginians, using federal funds and hospital fees.

"I put in the budget $421 million. This is the proposal I put in last year which the hospitals agreed with me on. They put up a dollar, they get nine back," McAuliffe explained.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Republican House and Senate leaders again said no to the idea.

But Chris Jones (R - Suffolk), Chair of the House Appropriations Committed responded, "I think it's realistic there will be some additional coverage for Virginians in health care."

House Speaker-designee Kirk Cox (R - Colonial Heights) added that they'd rather focus on Medicaid reform to cut costs and waste.

"I think the Governor-elect has made it very clear he also wants to look at the reform aspect," said Cox.

Another debate between the two sides centers on how much money to put into the state's cash reserve fund to protect Virginia's Triple A rating after Moody's and S&P expressed concern about the state having dipped into it.

Governor McAuliffe proposed adding $270 million to the fund over the two year budget.

"If they don't do this cash reserve, they're risking Virginia losing its Triple A credit rating," said McAuliffe.

To which Jones responded, "I'm not sure we need to be quite that aggressive potentially in year one. It will be another work in progress to see what makes the most sense."

The Governor also budgeted a two percent pay raise for state workers and teachers in 2019.

"This pay raise also means our teachers, law enforcement, state agency workers, and more will not have to choose between serving their communities and sufficiently providing for their families," he announced to Committee members.

McAuliffe's proposed budget also includes an additional $516 million for public education, $7.5 million for a new workforce training program to fill vacant jobs, and increased funding for mental health care and fighting the opioid epidemic.

The House and Senate money committees will begin considering the proposed budget when the General Assembly session begins Jan. 10.

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