Thinking about sand
This is the time of year that families might be thinking about going to the beach or the lake to enjoy the sun. One of the things people reflect upon when thinking about the beach is standing on the surf and having the waves wash over your feet. It feels good but before you know it, those waves wash away the sand under your feet. This year, the final budget was very much like that. Partially because, as we see people knowing better, some voted for a budget that was not well considered and is not fiscally sound. Just as one becomes unstable as the sand washes away from our feet, this budget will leave Virginia’s government unstable in future years.
When we returned to finalize a budget, a majority in the Senate and House chose to ignore the hard work of the Senate Finance Committee that was both conservative and fiscally responsible. It increased funding for our rural schools and our hard working teachers, state supported colleges and universities, and state employees and state supported local employees like deputies. It provided increases for public safety and those who need help with either health or mental health care. All while setting aside “rainy day’’ funds for bad economic times to maintain our AAA bond rating while not raising taxes.
The budget, that I opposed but was ultimately approved, instead increased spending by over 11%! That is three times the growth rate that the national economy hopes for. This was irresponsible and unsustainable without tax increases; therefore, despite having good elements in it, I along with 16 other Republican senators opposed it. Included in the budget is a tax of $600 million on the for-profit hospitals. In the deal with the hospitals, they will be rewarded with almost $1 billion federal dollars. That is why they ran many advertisements to support the House budget. That will guarantee that your insurance premiums will ultimately be borne by you, the consumer, as a backdoor tax.
COST OF HEALTH INSURANCE
Early this session, we in the Senate had focused on trying to control the cost of premiums that are as high as $3,000 a month. A series of Senate bills that had passed both the Senate and House and would have accomplished that were vetoed by Governor Northam. We attempted to include those proposals in the budget that passed, but those manipulating the budget refused to allow them to be included. Those in support of this tried to claim that there was a work requirement for the able-bodied. This was undercut by the Governor calling it a work suggestion. All of this despite the fact that the federal government is trying to reduce their investment in Obamacare.
Because of the limited reimbursement for Medicaid patients, rural areas have traditionally not had enough doctors or other providers. Nothing in this budget was done that will encourage new providers to come to rural areas where they are needed.
Considering this situation created by this budget, it does not bode well for our fiscal future in Virginia. We have no idea if this will add the budgeted 300,000 more to the Medicaid roles or more likely 550,000 more. We probably will not know this for another year or two, but it will be more than is in the budget. Therefore, this will affect future state spending on education, public safety, mental health, and the many other responsibilities of state government.
Frank Ruff represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen. Ruff@verizon.net.