Pressing the green “yes” button at my desk on the floor of the House of Delegates last Wednesday night was literally the most consequential vote I have ever taken. It truly was the best day for me, ever, in the Virginia House of Delegates.
People often ask me why I serve, and I always respond “because I truly want to make a difference.” The fact is, if I were ever in doubt, I can look at this vote and say, yes we can and yes we do make a difference, in this case, to over 300,000 Virginians who had no insurance. These people are not just statistics, they are neighbors, family members and friends.
As I drove back from Richmond that night, I think it finally sunk in: Medicaid expansion will become a reality in Virginia. We passed a budget that reflects our values, providing well-deserved access to healthcare for over 300,000 people, teachers and state employees will receive raises, there will be additional money for mental health and for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and insurance will be provided for people with autism up until age 21, while funds will be added to our rainy-day fund.
I have always gone to Richmond with a goal to listen and get things done, working with everyone, finding areas of commonality. This budget is a perfect example of Democrats and Republicans coming together to do what is right for the Commonwealth and its citizens. Gov. Ralph Northam, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, all of our Democratic members of the House and Senate, as well as a number of Republicans and so many others: individuals, groups and stakeholders worked earnestly in support of Medicaid expansion for over five years and we finally did it.
We were victorious because everyone came together and because we elected so many new diverse but like-minded voices into the House of Delegates in November of 2017. As our Democratic leader aptly put it, we showed “the power of 49.” But 49 is not 51; we needed leadership on the other side of the aisle, as we had through Speaker Kirk Cox, Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones and Commerce and Labor Chairman Terry Kilgore who were instrumental in leading support among Republicans in the House. Senators Emmett Hanger, Dick Saslaw, George Barker, and Janet Howell were essential in leading the Senate as well, and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax broke a number of ties in the Senate to block hostile amendments to our budget. This was truly a team effort.
Thanks to the passage of this budget there will also be funding for more judges and additional individuals with disabilities will have access to Medicaid waivers. Investment was increased in economic development while additional money will be provided to expand broadband and preserve our AAA bond rating. Through this budget, we will create opportunities for working families to thrive. We will build a better, healthier, stronger Virginia.
I will always remember pressing that green button on my desk on May 30, 2018 while watching the vote board light up green in support of a budget we can all be proud of. During my time in office, this was truly the most important vote I have ever taken.