It’ll be another week until Virginia sees movement on the state budget.
Lawmakers have been split for months on Medicaid expansion.
Now, frustrations are growing in both chambers as the June 30 deadline nears.
If they don’t come to an agreement by then, they will force a state government shutdown July 1.
“We need to wrap it up,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights).
Cox said he is disappointed the budget process is taking so long.
The General Assembly adjourned March 10 without passing a budget. A special session was called April 11. Less than a week later, the House sent its budget to the Senate. More than a month after that, the Senate has yet to put forth a budget.
“They’ve just, for whatever reason, delayed, delayed, delayed, delayed,” said Cox. “You can’t keep asking people to be calm when you simply postpone every week what you said you were going to do.”
Cox said teachers, local schools and local governments are relying on them to finalize the two-year spending plan. He said he is also concerned about maintaining Virginia’s AAA bond rating.
“This delay adds unnecessary uncertainty and is a disservice to the people of the Commonwealth,” said Cox.
Medicaid expansion has support from a majority of lawmakers in both chambers. The House included it in its approved budget proposal. But, so far, the Senate has yet to have a full floor vote.
On Monday, pro-expansion lawmakers released a revised budget plan.
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment told the AP he expects his chamber to pass a budget next week, and that it is likely to include Medicaid expansion. What form of expansion is still up in the air however.
On Tuesday, Norment snapped back at critics who said senators were dragging their feet.
“They expect senators to approve more than 300 pages of budget amendments without any member of the Finance Committee staff having analyzed them and in less than 24 hours after they were released,” he said in a statement. “In effect, the Governor and the Speaker are now advocating that the Senate needs to pass the budget to find out what’s in it. That didn’t serve the last legislative leader who chose that course especially well.”
Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), who was an early supporter of Medicaid expansion, said it’s all part of the legislative process.
“I think it’s careful that, despite the events we find ourselves in, that we take our time to make sure all the legislators are informed of what’s in it,” he said.
He hopes to see final action next week.
“I’m confident that we’ll pass a budget. If not Tuesday evening, certainly by Wednesday the House will have a budget,” said Wagner. “And I hope by the end of the week the governor will have signed it.”