WASHINGTON — Virginia’s Senate Finance Committee will meet May 14 — more than a month after a special session on the state’s budget standoff began and less than seven weeks before a shutdown deadline — to consider the budget bills presented by Gov. Ralph Northam.
The announcement means the state’s budget standoff, largely tied to a long-running debate over Medicaid expansion, will not be resolved for at least a few more weeks.
The House of Delegates passed its version of the budget April 17, less than a week after the special session convened, and again included Medicaid expansion for up to 400,000 more low-income Virginians that would largely be paid for by the federal government.
The Senate has not yet formally referred the base budget bills to committee, so it will convene before the Finance Committee meeting May 14 to do that. Senate Republicans expect the May committee meeting to include the latest updates on Virginia’s financial outlook from Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne.
“I’m disappointed it’s taking this long to do something that could have been done nearly a month earlier,” House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said in a statement. “We need to get this done sooner rather than later.”
Without a budget passed by the Senate, formal negotiations over a budget deal have not been able to begin. Informal budget negotiations have continued behind closed doors in the hopes of avoiding a state government shutdown at the end of the day June 30.
“Local governments, school boards, and national bond rating agencies are expecting us to act, and there’s no reason for delay,” Cox said.
Local governments have largely set their tax rates and budgets based on their best guesses of what state funding will be as part of a two-year budget deal.
While Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) has maintained his opposition to Medicaid expansion due to cost concerns, he has recently left an opening to back expansion after two Republican Senators – the minimum needed to join Senate Democrats to get Medicaid expansion through – said they would support expansion under the right circumstances.
“It is our intention to consider the implications of all proposals when the Senate Finance Committee meets,” Norment said in a statement.
Republican leaders in the House joined Democrats to support expansion during the regular session this winter after losing 15 seats in November’s elections.