While planning to sign the state budget, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a series of line-item budget vetoes today and stated a plan will be in place administratively by Sept. 1 to expand health care to Virginians who need it.
The Republican-led General Assembly sent a two-year, $96 billion plan to the governor last week, just ahead of the start of the new fiscal year July 1. At a press conference in Richmond on Friday, McAuliffe, a Democrat, said he may have vetoed the entire budget had the tight timeline not been a factor.
Instead, he plans to sign it, but with the vetoes and plans of “moving forward” with Medicaid expansion on his own. He has directed Virginia Secretary of Health Bill Hazel to submit a plan to his desk by Sept. 1 on how federally funded expansion of Medicaid — which serves the working poor, disabled and others — will take place.
McAuliffe said the “lies, fears and cowardice” that have dominated the debate over expanding Medicaid must end, directing his words mainly toward Republicans in the House of Delegates who have “stubbornly refused” any offer to expand health care since he took office in January.
The budget included a Senate amendment insisted from the House that requires General Assembly action before funds can be appropriated for Medicaid expansion. It was a move served to prevent the governor from taking unilateral action to expand.
McAuliffe vetoed that amendment Friday, and appears poised to expand health care on his own. He also vetoed the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission in its “entirety.” MIRC had been tasked with overseeing reforms before expansion takes place, and was led by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave.
“It is merely a sham,” the governor said, “to pretend that the legislature is actually doing something with health care.”
The House will convene at 5 p.m. Monday, followed by the Senate at 6 p.m., to consider McAuliffe’s actions. The General Assembly can override a governor’s veto.
The governor said he may have additional vetoes or amendments for lawmakers to consider. He has until Sunday to act.