It has been a week since Virginia Senate Republicans pushed through a partisan redistricting plan that has made our Commonwealth’s legislature become a national spectacle once again. While this issue remains deeply troubling to me and many other Virginians, other important debates demand our focus and our effort during this short legislative session. While issues around redistricting and the Electoral College have dominated much of the discussion, we must turn our attention to improving our economy by finding a solution to our state’s transportation crisis, strengthening our small businesses, responsibly expanding Medicaid, and ensuring the success of our public schools.
There is broad agreement that it is time to address our inadequate infrastructure. Shortfalls in our transportation budget have hampered expansions necessary to keep pace with our state’s rapid growth over the past decade and strained our funds for maintenance. This is about the hours we waste stuck in perpetual traffic on congested roads and away from our families. This is also about the bottom line of our businesses, both large and small, as the congestion effects productivity. We need to find new sources of revenue, but funding for our children’s education is something that should not be sacrificed.
Additionally, we are considering a proposal for Medicaid expansion. Already our state has one of the top 10 leanest Medicaid systems in the United States, and expanding Medicaid will help provide healthcare to those most in need in our communities. This expansion will cost $15 million a year over the next nine years according to the Governor's office. In return, over $23 billion will flow back to Virginia from the federal government, an investment that will strengthen our economy and create thousands of jobs. The benefits do not end there, during those same nine years, Medicaid expansion will actually save our state $300 million that our public hospitals would have previously spent in unremunerated emergency room care for the uninsured. I am standing behind this Medicaid expansion. It is right for Virginia. It is right for Virginians.
Despite early disappointments, this session is still rich with opportunity. We have a chance to show Virginians that effective government can act to fix problems we are facing. While partisan power grabs have dominated much of the conversation here in Richmond, I believe we will be able to move forward and talk about the issues that are affecting people every day and treat issues like transportation and education like the critical issues they are in reality for so many.
Charniele Herring (D-46) represents Alexandria City in the Virginia General Assembly and serves as the House Minority Whip. For more information, visit www.charnieleherring.com or on twitter @c_herring.