VA House approves $96M state budget, thwarts veto on expanded health coverage

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Richmond, VA, United States (4E) – The Virginia General Assembly on Monday approved a two-year, $96 billion state budget averting a government shutdown and prevented a vote to override Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto on the budget bill’s provision subjecting his expansion of health coverage to the legislature’s decision.

Speaker William J. Howell’s (R-Stafford) procedural move blocking two of the governor’s eight vetoes on the budget bill that he signed Friday overshadowed Monday’s approval of the new appropriations ahead of the July 1 deadline.

Howell said the two vetoes were unconstitutional and out of order. The other veto was for the provision preventing governors from appointing judges when the General Assembly is not in session.

The Speaker argued that vetoing a portion of a budget item, rather than an entire item is outside the governor’s authority. The scuttling of the vote on the veto averted a potential failure to override it because the two-thirds vote from both chambers required to override the veto is impossible to achieve given the divided Senate.

McAuliffe denounced the Speaker’s move calling it “a procedural gimmick and trick.”

“I am continually surprised and disappointed by the lengths to which Republicans in the House of Delegates will go to prevent their own constituents from getting access to health care,” the governor said in a statement, according to Richmond Times Dispatch.

The governor said he will still pursue the expansion of health coverage to some 400,000 uninsured Virginians despite the rejection of his veto, which was supposed to allow him to implement the program without the legislature’s approval.

Meanwhile, under the approved budget, there are no raises for teachers and state employees, inflation payments to hospitals, and K-12 spending because of a projected $1.5 billion revenue shortfall. Spending on mental health was increased.

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