RICHMOND -- Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed part of a roughly $96 billion two-year budget that is aimed ensuring the Democratic governor cannot expand Medicaid without legislative approval.
McAuliffe announced his plans during a news conference Friday at the Capitol.
"When it comes to health care, let me make something clear, we are moving forward.", said Governor McAuliffe. "Secretary Hazel will have a plan on my desk by September 1st" on how to move forward on health care.
McAuliffe said he believes there are number of ways he can legally expand Medicaid without the General Assembly's approval. But leaders of the GOP-controlled House responded Friday that McAuliffe's does not have that power and they are prepared to fight.
General Assembly Republicans fired back that the governor has no such authority, calling the actions "blatant executive overreach."
"The Constitution of Virginia is very clear that only the general assembly can appropriate dollars. If he chooses to try to do this unilaterally he can expect and will get a legal challenge from the legislative body," said Virginia Beach State Senator Frank Wagner.
Beach delegate Chris Stolle, himself a doctor, says he's still hopeful some answer to the coverage gap can be found.
"He's got to expect some push-back when he tries to strong-arm people into compliance rather than agreeing to a common goal," Stolle said. "I think the approach he took was wrong. It's time to come together and find solutions rather than resorting to this name-calling."
"The governor's attempt to usurp the constitutionally proscribed powers of the legislative branch is a dangerous threat to the rule of law, separation of powers, and foundation of representative democracy that we simply cannot allow," House Republican leaders, including House Speaker William J. Howell, said in a statement.
Lawmakers passed a two-year budget last week that did not include expanding Medicaid eligibility. McAuliffe and most Democratic lawmakers support expanding Medicaid, while most Republicans oppose it.
The battle over Medicaid expansion led to a months-long impasse over the budget that threatened a potential state government shutdown. The impasse was broken when a Democratic state senator abruptly resigned, giving Republicans control of both chambers in the General Assembly.
McAuliffe also said he will continue to look for ways to expand Medicaid, including potential public-private partnerships.
"It's our money, it's going across the Potomac River. We have a right to bring it back...we are talking about forfeiting $20 billion...We're going to go get it, we're going to bring it back, and we're going to get health care for our folks.", said the governor.
The General Assembly can vote to override the governor's veto.
Theresa Parker is among the 400,000 Virginians who falls in the gap coverage. She makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid as it stands in Virginia but doesn't make enough money to qualify for a subsidy on the healthcare marketplace. She was happy to hear of McAuliffe's plans.
"God is good! I know it's going to be a long road ahead of him still but he's kept his people in mind," Parker said.