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Stanley hopeful for state budget
After Democratic senator's resignation
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State Sen. Bill Stanley

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

State Sen. Bill Stanley is optimistic that the General Assembly will adopt a budget — one that does not include a Medicaid expansion — by the end of this month, now that Republicans are in control of the Senate.

Yet that does not necessarily mean a state government shutdown on July 1 will be averted. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who supports expanding the publicly funded health insurance program for the poor, could veto the budget, said Stanley, R-Glade Hill.

“It’s hard to say right now” what McAuliffe will do, Stanley said. “I hope he understands” that passing a budget “is bigger than political gamesmanship.”

The senator commented following the resignation Monday of state Sen. Phil Puckett, D-Tazewell. In a statement, Puckett cited family concerns, such as his daughter not being able to be permanently confirmed as a judge while he is a lawmaker, as the basis for his resignation.

Twenty-one senators, including Stanley and one Democrat, signed a letter that orders the Senate to go back into session on Thursday to consider the budget, Stanley said. The House also plans to return to Richmond that day.

But “the House is just waiting on action from us,” he said of the Senate. Basically, “they’ve already done their work” toward preparing a budget.

The Senate has “a lot of hard work” ahead as it figures out how to close a budget shortfall projected at $350 million to $360 million for the new fiscal year that will start July 1, Stanley said.

By law, reserve funds can be used only if a budget is adopted by July 1, he said.

The budget deficit will grow if Medicaid is expanded, Stanley said. Therefore, the expansion should be removed from the budget now and considered later, he said.

“It’s important that we pass a budget clean and free of Medicaid expansion ... and we act prudently to make sure there is no government shutdown,” he continued.

A shutdown would prevent local governments from receiving state funds they rely on to provide services such as public safety, schools and highway maintenance, he said.

McAuliffe and other Democrats have led the effort to expand Medicaid. Puckett noted in his statement that he supported the expansion.

Some Democrats accused Puckett of striking a deal with Republicans to get a job with the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, which the GOP controls. Commission Chairman Del. Terry Kilgore said Monday that Puckett no longer is interested in the post, The Associated Press reported.

Stanley said Puckett plans to remain in his banking job, but “he would have been perfect” (highly qualified) in a job with the tobacco commission.

Republicans had no involvement in Puckett’s resignation, Stanley said.

“That accusation was made by the Democrats to (try to) excuse their own behavior ... and hide their own failings” in being unable to help get a budget approved, he said.

“It shows how shallow they are” that they would attack a fellow Democrat so vehemently, he added.

Although he is a Republican, Stanley said he has respect and admiration for Puckett, who has been a lawmaker for 16 years. They have worked together in drafting legislation, he said.

“I think the world of Phil,” he said, calling Puckett “a great friend, mentor ... and influence to me.”

He added that Puckett is “a true statesman” with high morals and ethics who has been “a champion for causes of Southside and Southwest Virginia.”


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