Shutdown fears grow as House, Senate pass competing budgets

Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-20 19:26:57-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Fears over a possible government shutdown in the Commonwealth is growing after the House and Senate passed competing budgets Thursday.

"I think it is true we are heading to a budget impasse,"  Delegate David Toscano, the Democratic House Leader, told CBS 6.

"We are not going to shutdown the government," Republican House Speaker Bill Howell said in response.

The controversy surrounds whether or not to expand Medicaid in order to offer health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who are too poor for Obamacare subsidies,  but too well off for current Medicaid requirements.

The federal government has offered to pay for the program for three years -- and then at 90 percent funding the years after that.

"To not be concerned with the health of others, I think it is a bit hypocritical,"  State Senator Don McEachin told CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George.

McEachin is talking about the concern that  lawmakers have voted to build a new General Assembly building over asbestos fears, but not offer health insurance to those currently uncovered.

However, Republicans argue that those issues are not related. In fact, Republican Speaker William Howell said he has concerns that the federal government will not fulfill its obligation and that Virginia taxpayers will be left with an unpaid bill.

"At the end of the three years, how much is the state going to pick up then?" Howell asked CBS 6 political reporter Joe St. George.

"Ten percent," St. George responded.

"Well if you think it is ten percent, I got a bridge I want to sell yah," Howell said.

The plan that was passed in the Senate is called Marketplace Virginia, which would use the money the federal government plans to give to Medicaid expansion and direct it toward a private insurance plan those currently uninsured could have access too.

The House rejected that idea late Thursday.

Governor Terry McAuliffe, who supports Medicaid expansion, issued the following statement.

“I commend the bipartisan group of legislators from both chambers of the General Assembly who voted today to put their constituents and Virginia’s economy ahead of partisan politics. Because of those votes, the Senate budget contains a smart, market-based path forward to covering more Virginians and growing our economy in the process. While I am disappointed that House Republicans chose ideology ahead of what’s best for the Commonwealth on this preliminary vote, I remain optimistic that members of both parties can find common ground to accept this good deal for Virginia."