GONE BUT NOT LONG FORGOTTEN...
The 2018 Virginia General Assembly Regular Session adjourned Sine Die on March 10th without coming to agreement on a new two-year state budget due to an inability to agree on Medicaid expansion.
House and Senate budget negotiators had been trying to hash out differences between two vastly different spending plans. House Bill 30 calls for expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, while Senate Bill 30 did not. Consequently, the two proposed budgets differed by about $600 million on Medicaid expansion, $170 million on K-12 education, about $80 million on higher education funding, a 2% raise for state employees offered in the House budget, and other priorities. The House budget relies greatly on projected savings produced by taking federal Medicaid expansion dollars. The Senate budget calls for $440 million in extra spending by simply expanding the current Medicaid program, but not utilizing federal ACA expansion dollars or appropriating state funds to pay for it.
Tensions consistently rose the last couple days of session as pointed remarks between leadership in both chambers began circulating among press releases and within the halls of the Capitol. Along with the debate on the state budget and Medicaid, certain Senators also complained about how their bills were treated (either killed or never heard) in House committees. Ultimately, the one prevailing sentiment shared among leadership was that all members of the legislature would benefit from a break and then should reconvene at a later date to finish the budget. The General Assembly must have a spending plan in place before July 1st in order to avoid a state government shutdown.
A Special Session will be called by Governor Northam to finish work on the state budget and continue discussions on Medicaid expansion. Governor Northam will introduce a new budget proposal, which will include Medicaid expansion, and has indicated that he would prefer the legislature return sooner rather than later. As further developments concerning the budget and a Special Session unfold, we will keep you updated.
The Virginia Beverage Association did not see as many pieces of legislation posing an immediate threat to the beverage industry this session; however, there were still plenty of bills with real, direct implications on our businesses requiring monitoring and action.