RICHMOND (AP) -- Days after taking office, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe asked lawmakers to help him "show the partisans in Washington" that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.
But in a Monday evening speech to the General Assembly, the new Democratic governor also pressed lawmakers to take up one of the most contentious issues of the state's 2014 legislative session: expanding Medicaid.
McAuliffe says the state can't afford to forgo $2.1 billion a year in federal funds by not expanding the Medicaid under the federal health care law to about 400,000 Virginians.
Republicans have rejected overtures to expand Medicaid, saying it needs reform.
Statement of Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins:
"After hearing Governor McAuliffe's speech, I remain cautiously optimistic about the course he intends to chart for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thus far I've been pleasantly surprised with all but one of his cabinet nominations."
"Nonetheless, Republicans will remain vigilant and will hold both Governor McAuliffe and the newly-elected Democratic Executive Branch accountable. And one of Governor McAuliffe's central policy initiatives - the expansion of Obamacare in Virginia through Medicaid - was, and remains, a terrible idea. "
"As we've detailed time and time again, expanding Medicaid will eventually leave Virginia on the hook for billions of dollars that our Commonwealth simply doesn't have, and would actually degrade the quality of health care for Virginians -- without improving health outcomes for those Virginians who need help the most."
"Regardless, I wish Governor McAuliffe and his team well, and hope they meet with success. Virginians deserve no less."
Statement from Virginia House Democratic Caucus:
“Governor McAuliffe struck the right tone tonight, emphasizing how we should work together to achieve common goals,” said Democratic Leader David Toscano. “We are especially enthused that he focused on educational reform and the Standards of Learning (SOL), because that is a priority for our caucus.”
“Parents and teachers across Virginia are demanding action on SOL reform,” said Toscano. “The current system that requires teachers to teach to a test without any flexibility is failing our children. We need reforms that will grant more flexibility to schools, while still measuring a student’s progress.”
“It is imperative that the General Assembly work with Governor McAuliffe to expand health care access,” said Caucus Chair Mark Sickles. “We cannot afford to leave money on the table, especially when it can be used to insure more Virginians and create good paying jobs in the health care industry that will ripple through the economy.”