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McAuliffe Likely To Go To Battle Over Virginia Budget

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A budget recently passed in Virginia takes aim at one of Gov. McAuliffe's key priorities: expanding health coverage.
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A budget recently passed in Virginia takes aim at one of Gov. McAuliffe's key priorities: expanding health coverage.

Virginia Republicans have taken over the General Assembly and passed a state budget that does not include Medicaid expansion. But the battle over the budget is about to get even more intense.

One provision in the new Republican budget makes it more difficult for Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe to expand health insurance coverage for 400,000 Virginians who live in poverty or with disabilities. The new language requires legislative approval for Medicaid expansion to move forward, essentially allowing Republicans to stop it.

University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says McAuliffe will probably use his line-item veto to remove that provision.

"The governor has made it pretty clear over the last six months that this was non-negotiable," Farnsworth says. "This would be a significant adjustment in his key priority if he were to walk away from Medicaid expansion."

The governor could then sign a budget and use executive power to expand Medicaid, an act that would undoubtedly invite a court challenge.

University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Geoff Skelley says the governor has some difficult choices to make.

"He basically has to decide is this worth the rest of his term, I think. How vital is this to him? Does he have any other goals he wants to accomplish—any significant goals I should say—in his time as governor? Because he could really poison the well," Skelley says.

The clock is ticking. Now that he's received the budget, McAuliffe has a week to take action.

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