RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The budget battle has officially begun at the State Capitol.
Lawmakers are back in Richmond to work on finalizing a two-year spending plan. They adjourned last month torn on whether to expand Medicaid.
It was included in the House of Delegates’ budget proposal but not the Senate’s.
As the returned to the Capitol Tuesday, lawmakers were greeted by supporters of Medicaid expansion flashing signs saying “the time is now” and “400,000 Virginians can’t wait.”
“At the end of the day, even though we disagree, we will come to an agreement on a budget,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover).
Two Republican Senators — Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) and Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) — have recently signaled they’d be willing to break rank and vote for Medicaid expansion if the right deal is made.
But many Senate Republicans are still hesitant to include Medicaid expansion. They say the versions before them do not have adequate reforms and work requirements.
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said his chamber is working on it.
“We felt very good about the reforms we negotiated, but there’s always room to strengthen reforms,” said Cox. “And so I think we’ve listened as far as the work requirement goes and you’ll see a strengthened work requirement.”
Tuesday’s business was mostly procedural.
Cox said he expects the House to pass a budget Tuesday evening and send it over to the Senate for consideration.
“Our goal is to work as efficiently as possible to get the House and Senate in a committee of conference to begin discussions on the budget,” said Cox.
House Democrats said they are working hard to pass a balanced and bipartisan budget before the looming deadline.
“This has, in the beginning of the year, worked by sitting at the table and legislators negotiating with our governor and talking about the best way to do it,” said Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria). “In Virginia, we have to do this in a way that’s the Virginia way.”
In the meantime, those invested in the issue watch and wait.
Lawmakers have until July 1 to pass a budget or they face a state government shutdown.
“We’ve always finished the budget on time. Sooner is better than later,” said Cox. “But it’ll get done.”
Next week, lawmakers will gather for reconvened session. That’s when they take up vetoes and amendments made by the governor.