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Legislators: No end is in works on budget stalemate
State legislators gathered Wednesday for the annual Post-Legislative Luncheon hosted by the Martinsville-Henry County and Patrick County chambers of commerce. Del. Danny Marshall (from left), Del. Les Adams, Del. Charles Poindexter and Sen. Bill Stanley discussed various issues dealing with the General Assembly. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Local lawmakers do not yet know when, or how, the General Assembly will resolve its impasse over the state budget and whether to expand Medicaid.
“I’m on stand-by ... ready to go back to Richmond,” Del. Les Adams, R-Chatham, said Wednesday during the annual Post-Legislative Luncheon sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.
In March, Gov. Terry McAuliffe presented a plan to accept federal Medicaid funds in exchange for expanding the government-financed health insurance program to 400,000 low-income people statewide. McAuliffe said he would discontinue the expansion in two years if the state did not benefit from it, The Associated Press (AP) has reported.
The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee rejected the proposal, and the Democrat-led Senate took no action, according to the AP.
“The Senate is refusing to place the budget bill in conference” committees, Adams, who was elected last fall, said during the luncheon.
And, “we’ve not had a real debate” about Medicaid yet, he said, because it is tied into the budget.
“Stay tuned,” said Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville. “It’s going to be a long summer.”
Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, said he thinks Medicaid spending in Virginia already is “not sustainable” and is drawing money away from other programs and budgetary needs.
The federal government likely will make changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — also known as Obamacare — in the next few years, Poindexter said. The state should wait and see what those changes will be before it considers expanding Medicaid, he said.
Polls show most people do not like the ACA, Poindexter said.
And, they have “made it clear” they do not want a Medicaid expansion to be part of the act, said Republican state Sen. Bill Stanley, also of Glade Hill.
Stanley said he believes Medicaid should be considered separately from the rest of the budget deliberations. He did not further discuss the program.
However, Stanley said he thinks efforts should be made to make health care more affordable. That would keep impoverished people from going to hospital emergency departments for care they could get at private clinics, he said.
During the luncheon at the Spencer-Penn Centre, lawmakers discussed approved legislative matters in which they were involved. For example:
• Stanley, after consultation with Adams, introduced Senate Resolution 32 to create a joint subcommittee to figure out how to get Interstate 73 built.
The highway would run through Henry County. Economic developers have said it would help attract businesses and industries to the area.
Stanley said he has heard people say they do not expect to see I-73 built during their lifetimes, and he wants to change their minds.
• Adams was a co-patron of House Bill 930, which he said will reform state Standards of Learning assessments and allow localities to administer some alternative assessments in their schools.
• Poindexter introduced House Bill 672 to expand the Port of Virginia Economic & Infrastructure Development Zone into a statewide grant program.
The expanded program allows companies that locate or expand in Virginia to apply for a one-time grant based on the number of full-time jobs they create, details on the state’s Legislative Information System’s website show.
• Marshall mentioned that he sponsored a budget amendment that should result in the New College Institute getting roughly $289,000 in extra state funds to be put toward expenses related to the school’s new building.
The amendment passed both the House and Senate, so he expects NCI will get the money after a budget is approved, he said.
Also at the luncheon, Marshall thanked Henry County Administrator Tim Hall for his involvement — along with federal and state lawmakers — in securing an environmental permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre near Ridgeway.
Hall received a round of applause from the large crowd at the event, which included business leaders from Martinsville and Henry and Patrick counties.
The Patrick County Chamber of Commerce helped host the annual luncheon this year.