RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Terry McAuliffe vowed Friday to bypass the General Assembly and expand Medicaid eligibility for about 400,000 low-income residents on his own.
The Democratic governor said his staff has begun working with the federal government, insurance plans, hospitals and other groups on how to expand health care coverage for the poor, absent approval from state lawmakers.
"Let me be crystal clear, I am moving forward to get health care for Virginian citizens," McAuliffe said at news conference at the capitol.
McAuliffe had tried unsuccessfully for months to persuade Republican state lawmakers to approve some form of Medicaid expansion. But he said Friday he had "no illusions" that Republicans were interested in compromising on the issue.
"They have turned their back, time and time again," McAuliffe said.
He said he's ordered Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. William A. Hazel Jr. to present a plan no later than Sept. 1 on "how we move forward with health care in the face of the demagoguery, the lies, the fear and the cowardice that have gripped this debate for far too long."
McAuliffe said he believes there are number of ways he can legally expand Medicaid without the General Assembly's approval. But leaders of the GOP-controlled House responded Friday that McAuliffe's does not have that power and they are prepared to fight.
"The governor's attempt to usurp the constitutionally proscribed powers of the legislative branch is a dangerous threat to the rule of law, separation of powers, and foundation of representative democracy that we simply cannot allow," House Republican leaders, including House Speaker William J. Howell, said in a statement.
The battle over Medicaid expansion led to a months-long impasse over the budget that threatened a potential state government shutdown. The impasse was broken when a Democratic state senator abruptly resigned, giving Republicans control of both chambers in the General Assembly.
McAuliffe said Friday that he will sign the budget, but with several vetoes, among them an amendment to the budget inserted by conservative Republicans that was aimed at ensuring the Democratic governor could not expand Medicaid without legislative approval.
The governor also announced that he plans on blocking funding for a planned $300 million renovation of the Capitol complex that includes lawmakers' offices.
McAuliffe said he and his staff will continue to review the proposed budget, which he just received this past Sunday, and will "likely have several more" line-item vetoes to announce next week.
Governor McAuliffe's Announced Budget Actions:
1. Governor McAuliffe intends to veto language authorizing the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission to Approve Medicaid reforms as a requirement for Medicaid Expansion (MIRC). The General Assembly made the Commission irrelevant by removing their appropriations authority from the budget. The MIRC has also consistently allowed partisan political considerations prevent action despite the criteria for Medicaid expansion having been fulfilled.
2. Governor McAuliffe intends to veto the amendment limiting any appropriation or expenditure of funds in the State Treasury to address the health care coverage gap without specific authorization or an appropriation bill enacted by the General Assembly on or after July 1, 2014. The amendment is unnecessary given its intent to restrict an appropriation that does not exist anywhere in the budget.
3. Governor McAuliffe intends to veto funding for all new judges to which the General Assembly has attached language limiting the Governor from making appointments when the legislature is out of session. The Governor's right to fill judicial vacancies when the General Assembly is out of session is key to keeping the judiciary running efficiently.
4. Governor McAuliffe intends to veto an appropriation that will allow Chesterfield County to partner with the City of Petersburg to improve the quality of Petersburg schools. The Governor is committed to improving underperforming schools, but he is concerned about the constitutionality of the legislation and neither locality requested the change. 5. Governor McAuliffe intends to veto an item that would revert $4.6 million away from the Federal Action Contingency Trust (FACT) Fund. This money is needed to help protect Virginia's military installations from federal cuts or potential actions of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission.
6. Governor McAuliffe intends to veto the appropriation for the newly created Virginia Conflicts of Interest Advisory Commission out of his concern over the weakness of the ethics legislation passed by the General Assembly. He intends to introduce stronger legislation in the next session, making the creation of a new bureaucracy premature and unwise.
7. Governor McAuliffe intends to veto budget language dealing with asset forfeiture settlements at the request of the Office of the Attorney General. The Attorney General has indicated that while they are willing to continue to work on a possible resolution of issues, the adopted language will cause the Commonwealth difficulty in executing future settlements of this type.
8. The Governor also announced that, in addition to his actions on the budget, he has directed the Virginia Department of General Services to suspend any actions on the new $300 million General Assembly Building in Richmond. He believes building new expensive offices for legislators to use part time is wrong when the General Assembly could not even find additional money to fight homelessness in Virginia.