McAuliffe to propose Medicaid expansion again

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of millions of dollars required for schools and a plan to expand Medicaid will be included in Virginia’s next two-year budget proposal, despite repeated rejections of the Medicaid eligibility expansion by the Republican-led General Assembly.

In his final end-of-fiscal-year address to the General Assembly money committees, Gov. Terry McAuliffe recommended that about $120 million of the $136 million surplus for the year, which ended in June, go to a rainy-day fund. The rest is obligated by law to go toward water improvements and other uses. The surplus comes after significant budget cuts over the current two-year cycle.

McAuliffe, who leaves office in January and is not constitutionally allowed to run for a consecutive term, will submit his final two-year budget proposal to the General Assembly in December. He said two key drivers would be required increases in school spending and increased health care needs.

He touted gains in a number of economic indicators during his time in office, including a dropping unemployment rate that mirrored national trends and an increase in jobs.

“But for all the progress that we’ve made, we do face clear and dangerous threats to our fiscal health: the president’s recent budget proposal, which will cause irreparable harm to Virginians,” McAuliffe said.

He called the economic models underlying the budget proposals “pure fiction.”

Uncertainty surrounding federal spending and the threat of a debt-ceiling showdown in Congress next month are among McAuliffe’s other concerns.

Citing the recent defeat of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare,  McAuliffe made another push to convince lawmakers to expand Medicaid eligibility using federal money as allowed under the law.

“We still have an opportunity to save money and increase health care coverage now that the Affordable Care Act will remain the law of the land indefinitely,” McAuliffe said.

Republicans who have consistently opposed the expansion say it would cost money, not save it, and that the decision has already been made.

“For all of the challenges we will continue to face, I believe we have much to be optimistic about,” McAuliffe concluded.

Virginians vote Nov. 7 for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates.

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