Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee was briefed on Governor Terry McAuliffe's budget by Finance Secretary Ric Brown, a budget that is based on former Governor Bob McDonnell's outgoing budget proposal, but with more than 100 amendments (officially, HB/SB 5003). One of those amendments is the inclusion of Obamacare expansion. Not surprisingly, according to Secretary Brown, if the expansion is passed, Virginia will be in terrific shape. Interestingly, the governor calls this a two-year "pilot program." However, "pilot program" refers to something that is new and needs to be tested. Medicaid is anything but new and has mostly failed over its several-decades-long life span. This new budget makes no pretense about it — the governor stripped out his previously preferred Senate creation, "Marketplace Virginia," the Medicaid disguise and is going full bore for Medicaid expansion without the pretense. That should make the rhetorical landscape even easier for House Republicans to traverse.
The meeting itself was called on fairly short notice and the liberal majority no doubt gave a heads up to its base who flooded the committee room. After the presentation, 20 invited speakers were allowed to give five minute speeches on the proposed budget, although the timer was not used and most went well beyond five minutes.
Of the 20, 14 spoke in favor of Medicaid expansion (including a member of the administration, as if we needed to know where it stood after Secretary Brown's presentation), three against, one seemed to favor it but did not commit, and two spoke about other elements of the proposed budget. Ahem! No fix there! The opponents spoke at the end, to make their points appear almost irrelevant after so many handpicked hospital executives, doctors, corporate CEOs, local government officials and a patient, among others, made it seem that to oppose this plan is utter nonsense.
The meeting started at 2:00 (although lines to sign up for public comment started around 11:45) and it was about 4:15 when the first two segments finished. Chairman Chuck Colgan (D-29, Prince William) said the meeting would not go beyond 6:00 and that people from the public who had signed up would be given three minutes to speak. Remarkably, the timer was activated at this point!
Yours truly was alert enough to get in line at 11:45 and fortunately was the eighth person to sign up. I spoke at around 4:30. By the time I left the committee room about five minutes later, I was only the fourth speaker against Obamacare expansion. Talk about a stacked deck.
Below are my remarks. Kudos go to Americans for Prosperity, which transported dozens of activists from around Virginia to the capitol and fed them (and me!); Middle Resolution, which has spearheaded the coalition against this ill-advised plan; and NFIB — the three invited groups who spoke during the second portion of the meeting. Fortunately, because we did not coordinate, unlike the other side, our messages were not redundant, which General Assembly committees rightfully disdain. In fact, they nicely dovetailed with each other nicely, especially since we spoke in close proximity to each other. No vote was taken by the committee and we await its next meeting.
Chairman Colgan, Chairman Stosch, members of the committee, good afternoon. My name is Steve Rossie and I represent The Family Foundation of Virginia, representing thousands of families and family-owned businesses all across Virginia. We support the passage of a clean budget and oppose the expansion of Obamacare in Virginia.
The expansion should not be included in the budget because it is not an appropriation of state funds; it is not stand alone legislation passed by the General Assembly that requires funding; and the MIRC Commission has not finished its work. Last year's budget agreement stipulated that no action would be taken on this issue until the MIRC completed its findings.
Furthermore, a program rife with abuse, fraud and waste, such as Medicaid, should be audited — like when VDOT finally was audited four years ago and uncovered more than a billion dollars that was not being used. Just as Obamacare nationally has forced as many people off private insurance as it has enrolled through its poorly run website — despite the president's promise of keeping your insurance — MIRC has estimated that expanding Obamacare in Virginia will force 195,000 Virginians off their private insurance and into Medicaid. According to the Urban Institute, expanding Medicaid in Virginia will provide taxpayer funded healthcare to 228,000 non-disabled, childless adults, none of whom qualify for any other type of government assistance.
Are we ready to pay for all of that and all the unforeseeable costs that have plagued Medicaid nationally for decades, and create more government dependency?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.