Va. budget standoff to last at least 1 more week, possibly longer

WASHINGTON — Virginia’s General Assembly will not resolve a standoff over Medicaid expansion and the two-year state budget until at least next week, lawmakers said after they convened Wednesday for a special session.

The House of Delegates and Senate were several hundred million dollars apart when they ended the regular session March 10 without reaching a budget deal.

Two Republican senators — the number needed to get Medicaid expansion to up to 400,000 more very low-income Virginians through the Senate — have since indicated they are open to flipping to support expanding Medicaid and the related surge in federal money to the state if the right conditions are met.

The House of Delegates is moving relatively quickly to gets its budget proposal back to negotiators, with a committee hearing scheduled Friday and the full House expected to pass its budget bill Tuesday night. The bill is expected to mirror the House version passed in the regular session that included Medicaid expansion with a work requirement.

Negotiators will not be able to start work reconciling the specific budget bills until the Senate passes its own version, though.

As of the end of Wednesday’s largely procedural floor sessions, the Senate had not scheduled a committee hearing on the budget.

“I think that, in time, we’ll get enough folks [to support Medicaid expansion],” Gov. Ralph Northam said on WRVA Radio Wednesday morning.

The special session does not have a set length.

“We have to have a budget by July 1, and so the sooner we can get that, it’s obviously more helpful for people that have to plan: localities, police departments, our teachers, etc.” Northam said.

Lawmakers will separately convene next week for the annual reconvened session on April 18 where they take up amendments offered by the governor to bills passed in the regular session and bills the governor has vetoed.

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