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Virginia Senate adjourns without reaching budget agreement

RICHMOND, Va — The Virginia Senate reconvened only to adjourn a few hours later without reaching a budget agreement. The session saw heated exchanges between Republicans and Democrats, but little budget action, according to multiple reports from inside the chamber.

Two key GOP budget negotiators, Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) and Del. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), reached a deal on amendments to the House budget that would expand Medicaid to low-income Virginians, pay for the state’s share of the cost with tax on hospitals, and increase the amount deposited into Virginia’s reserve fund.

Senate majority leader Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg) has long opposed expanding Medicaid in Virginia over concerns that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act would be revoked, leaving the state on the hook for the full cost of expanding the federal health insurance program to hundreds of thousands of people.

“This unnecessary delay is made more insulting to Virginians by the reality that the House of Delegates passed a budget that expands health care weeks ago, and a majority of Senators have indicated they would vote for a similar measure if the Senate would simply put one on the floor. Virginians have waited long enough. It’s time to pass a budget that expands Medicaid and invests in the future of our economy,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement.

The House of Delegates was going to convene Wednesday morning to discuss any action taken by the Senate on the state budget, but Speaker of the House Kirk Cox cancelled the session saying “the House will not waste taxpayer dollars to hold an unnecessary floor session.”

“The time has come to finish the budget. Our teachers, local school boards, and local governments are waiting to craft their budgets and the national bond rating agencies are carefully monitoring Virginia’s AAA bond rating. This delay adds unnecessary uncertainty and is a disservice to the people of the Commonwealth,” Speaker Cox said in a statement.

State lawmakers must pass a budget by June 30 or face the possibility of a state government shut down. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene for budget discussions on May 30 at 3 p.m.