RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Virginia still does not have an approved budget. A special General Assembly session is attempting to resolve that situation.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe addressed the issue Thursday morning on AM 1140 WRVA’s “Ask the Governor” program.
He said if Virginia chooses to opt out of his proposed Medicaid expansion on a two year pilot program, it won't cost taxpayers anything. He also told callers the best way to strengthen the future of Virginia is to keep workers healthy today.
One caller suggested other ways to turbo-charge the state's economy, including bringing in legal gambling casinos.
Gov. McAuliffe said he does not believe the Virginia House of Delegates would entertain such a gamble. Instead, he called his budget balanced and responsible.
"You want to talk about an economic driver we're going to bring back to the Commonwealth when we get this done? Twenty-six billion dollars. Our taxpayer money that's going to 27 other states. Very conservative governors I remind you are taking this money and more states are lined up," Governor McAuliffe said.
State Republicans believe expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is an even bigger gamble. They want the healthcare program to be a separate issue to take up during a special session.
Under Gov. McAuliffe’s budget proposal, raises for state workers and new money for mental health programs are directly tied to federal Medicaid dollars.
The governor said he'll take the heat if Medicaid expansion doesn't help Virginia, but said the other side isn't listening.
"At some point you're negotiating against yourself," Gov. McAuliffe said. “They've offered a compromise in the Senate. I've offered a compromise as governor. And yet the Republicans in the House of Delegates have one mantra: No, no, no, no."
When asked about the governor's comments, Republican Party of Virginia spokesperson Garren Shipley said the first part of negotiation is showing up.
"The House passed a budget while Senate Democrats fled back to their home districts for two weeks," he said. "Republicans are ready to negotiate.”
Both sides have until July 1 to reach an agreement in order to avoid a government shutdown.