The State Senate now has a date to return to the General Assembly building to finalize a biennial state budget, but it also needs to articulate a budget that it is willing to pass. Tuesday, May 22 will be the day that the upper chamber is committed to returning to Bank Street in Richmond.
Almost five weeks after the General Assembly adjourned, the budget impasse began with the House of Delegates approving two budgets that expand Virginia’s Medicaid program, one for the fiscal year that ends on June 30, and the other for the two-year budget that begins July 1. The Senate reconvened in a special session on Monday to consider the bills in the Finance Committee.
A Senate budget that does not include Medicaid expansion would give Governor Ralph Northam an opportunity to offer a budget amendment that would allow the full Senate a say. As the discussions continue, Senators Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) and Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) have claimed they would be willing to join the 19 Democrats in the Senate to create a one-vote majority to support a proposal to expand Medicaid, albeit with the right terms.
“After more than four months of deliberation, it is time for action,” Northam said in a statement on Monday according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I hope Senate Republican leadership will take whatever steps are necessary to pass a budget when they return for work next Tuesday.”
With just six weeks left in the state’s fiscal year, House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) said he hopes the Senate is ready to act.
“Progress is progress,” Jones said. “I’m hopeful we can get the conversation going again and get the budget done as soon as possible.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) tried to clear the tension on that issue at the beginning of the Finance Committee meeting.
“There will be a budget,” he said.