General Assembly Passes Bigger Government, Higher Tax, Anti-Life Budget

After months of posturing and gridlock over the state budget, tonight the dam broke. The Senate voted 23-17 (19 Democrats and 4 Republicans) to embed a massive expansion of an already-failing and bloated Medicaid program into the budget. The House met to take an up-or-down vote on what the Senate passed, and quickly rubber-stamped it 67-31 (48 Democrats and 19 Republicans), sending it to the Governor for his signature.

The House has long since capitulated on this colossal growth of government entitlements, which will now cover able-bodied adults and will realistically end up covering between 400,000 - 600,000 additional Virginians. It already covers around 1.1 million. According to Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg), this represents the greatest single-year expansion of government in Virginia history.

Throughout the several-hours-long debate on the Senate floor, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) sold out conservatives at every turn as he played the role of the Governor’s spokesman, opposing every common-sense reform effort his Republican colleagues put forward, including key pro-life protections.

Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) called the expansion plan purely a bailout for the hospitals who made a bad deal under Obamacare. In addressing the claims that this was somehow a “conservative” approach to Medicaid expansion, Stanley pointed out that “It’s raw unadulterated expansion.” Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) explained how the new $600 million tax on hospitals is merely going to be passed right on through to the insured Virginians. No one’s insurance costs will decrease because of this plan. If anything, they will increase.   

At every step of the way, we fought against Medicaid expansion, even up to the last minute. Earlier today, I spoke at a press conference spear-headed by Americans for Prosperity to ramp up the pressure against Medicaid expansion, where I expressed how expanding this problematic program could not be considered a solution for healthcare. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum met with Senate Republicans before speaking at the presser to brief them on a new federal plan in the works that would overhaul Obamacare in a way that gives federal dollars back to states through block grants so they can use it how they see best. Unfortunately, four Senate Republicans ignored this anticipated fact.   

And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, the Senate failed to pass the “Hyde Amendment” which would mirror the federal government’s prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortions except in the limited circumstances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. (The House followed suit.) Virginia law currently allows for funding in each of those situations, but also for situations of incapacitating physical deformities or mental deficiencies. It’s unclear exactly what that means, but we know that the number of abortions taxpayers pay for in that category has steadily increased every year for the past four years.

Tragically, the Senate also failed to prevent a brand new $6 million “slush fund” from flowing straight to Virginia’s abortion industry through a pilot program that promotes long-acting contraceptive devices (“LARCs”). While spending countless hours alerting and educating elected officials on the implications of this program, and despite some last-ditch efforts by some Senate Republicans like Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Steve Newman (R-Bedford) to correct the problem, the House and Senate did not ultimately heed our warnings. The magnitude of this program’s consequences is hard now to even imagine.

Finally, on top of all of that, there are built-in tax increases, like an increase in car title fees from $10 to $15, amounting to $26 million. Frankly, with the way this was done behind closed doors between two or three legislators and the Governor, and how quickly it was all dumped on everyone, it’s hard to say just how many bad things are in this budget.       

It is painful to tell you this, but in truth, this is by far one of the most big-government, high-tax, pro-abortion budgets Virginia has ever passed. I wish I had better news, but that's just where things stand. Among other things, this only reinforces that there is much work ahead to be done, and despite our extreme disappointment, we remain committed to that critical task. We appreciate your continued support as we do.