This past Thursday, the House of Delegates passed the 2016-2018 state budget in a bipartisan 98 to 2 vote. This new budget addresses important needs in the Commonwealth, such as an additional $1 billion in education spending. According to the House budget, Fairfax County Public Schools should see an increase in funding of over $25 million in FY 2017 and $39 million, a $14 million increase over FY 2017, in FY 2018. While the extra funding is appreciated, it is not nearly enough to meet Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) funding needs from Richmond.
Although there are some great items in this budget, there are also some missed opportunities where we could have done even more to help Virginians. This budget takes a step backward though defunding women’s health programs, failing to expand Medicaid, and not providing enough money for public schools.
There are two measures that block funding toward women’s health services in the House budget. One prevents state funding on abortion services, except when required by federal law or state statute. Unfortunately, this measure passed on a party-line vote 63 to 34. Another eliminates $3 million in 2017 and $6 million in 2018 of federal funding from a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant, providing long-acting reversible contraceptives through the Virginia Department of Health. This would have mitigated the cost of IUDs and birth control implants. I also voted against this amendment. However, it passed 67 to 31.
It is hypocritical of the government to reduce funding for contraception while also reducing funding for abortions. Women deserve equal-access to safe, legal healthcare, and these measures will prove detrimental to women’s healthcare equality.
The other big missed opportunity in the House budget is the failure to expand Medicaid. Virginia could recover $2.1 billion of tax payer revenue from the federal government every biennium. This is money that we Virginians have already paid in our taxes and yet we are receiving nothing for them.
There are over 4,000 people in this portion of Lee and Mount Vernon who would be eligible for healthcare coverage if we proceeded with Medicaid expansion. The failure to expand Medicaid is passing up over $30 million in direct funding that should have gone to FCPS.
Despite these disappointing missed opportunities, compromise is the nature of democracy. I voted for the budget, along with 97 other colleagues, because the budget contains funding for many other worthwhile services and programs. There is an increase in funding for affordable housing, economic development, and conservation programs. It is my hope that we will be able to correct funding for women’s health programs, education funding and Medicaid this week in conference, before sending the final budget to the Governor.