Day 24 of Gov. McAuliffe’s budget impasse

HouseGOP2014 General Assembly Session, Issues

Today is day 24 of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Obamacare budget impasse.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a “public hearing” on Governor McAuliffe’s proposed Obamacare budget today, but the credibility of that hearing is now in question. According to one report, top Senate Democrat Dick Saslaw is pressuring people to show up and offer testimony.

From the Virginian-Pilot:

House of Delegates Majority Leader Kirk Cox told The Virginian-Pilot a lobbyist for a state agency confided in him that Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw pressured her to testify at the meeting.                                    

Saslaw, for his part, admits he contacted the lobbyist but said any claim coercion was applied is false.

In Cox’s secondhand rending, Saslaw “demanded” the lobbyist appear and make comment, a development Cox views as “unethical” and troubling evidence the hearing on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget proposal is all for show.

That account leaves the Colonial Heights Republican wondering whether testimony at the committee hearing will be offered voluntarily or under duress.

Saslaw in a Monday evening interview initially denied calling anyone about testifying at the hearing, then conceded he contacted Fornash in response to a reporter’s direct question, suggesting he forgot about that call.

“She’s the only person I called,” said Saslaw, D-Fairfax County.

Saslaw said he reminded Fornash that McAuliffe’s budget proposes a two percent pay increase for state employees, which college faculty would benefit from.

This is not the first instance of arm twisting and browbeating under Governor McAuliffe’s leadership. In February, McAuliffe tried to extort Delegate Riley Ingram over Medicaid expansion, all but threatening to kill a much-needed economic development project in the City of Hopewell if Ingram didn’t back expansion.

These are clear signs of desperation from a Governor and his allies who are feeling the pressure.

They have taken the budget hostage over an issue that only 4 percent of Virginians think should be lawmakers’ top priority.

The Governor lost a key ally in his push for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion last week when the Virginia Chamber of Commerce explicitly rejected Medicaid expansion.

Over 65 local governments, school boards and local elected officials from across the Commonwealth who represent over 3.8 million Virginians are calling on the Governor and Senate to decouple Medicaid expansion from budget deliberations.

The state budget is now three weeks overdue. That is creating tremendous uncertainty for local governments, school boards and the business community who are demanding the Governor drop his demands for Obamacare and pass a clean budget.

The Governor and Senator Saslaw realize they’ve picked a losing hand. Today’s public hearing is nothing more than a desperate attempt to reshuffle the deck.