There seems to be consensus among Shenandoah Valley legislators that it’s time for action on the Virginia state budget. While there are no announced developments on the budget impasse and Medicaid expansion, there is a perception that something needs to be done soon. “We’ve consistently said there is an urgency to do it. House members have heard from local governments and folks,’’ said Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave.
Landes said the ball is in the court of the Virginia Senate, which must act on the House budget and return it before a conference committee can be chosen. Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, agrees that it’s a time for leadership. “Those of us in leadership positions must meet in small groups and make concessions,’’ Hanger said. The senator said it would “totally inappropriate” not to have a budget by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1. Landes said local governments in his district are frustrated by the inaction.
“I think they are waiting and seeing,’’ he said. “By the end of the month they will be in a real pinch if something hasn’t been done.” The concerns go beyond simply passing a state budget. Landes said if Virginia goes past May and June without a budget it could damage the commonwealth’s Triple A bond rating. The delegate was part of a Vir- ginia delegation who traveled to Wall Street last October to meet with bond rating firms. The firms assured former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell that they were impressed by Virginia’s recent budget surpluses, the state’s investment in a rainy day fund and a $9 billion reduction in future pension liability.
“We assured them we would continue on the course we’ve had in the past to be fiscally responsible,’’ Landes said. “It is not fiscally responsible to push the state government over the edge for one issue.”
Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, said Thursday that he is hearing some optimism about a softening of the hardline stances taken on the expan- sion of Medicaid.
House Republicans do not want to expand now, while the Virginia Senate and Gov. Terry McAuliffe are firm in wanting the ex- pansion to cover 400,000 additional Virginians. Bell said he senses a softening and believes that “everybody has reached a point of agreement that we need to get a budget done.” Landes said it is up to the Senate.
“It’s in the hands of the Senate whether to move forward or not,’’ he said.