Medicaid expansion bill clears Senate committee

This is a change lawmakers have considered several years now. It passed the House last legislative session but later died in a committee. Source WLBT

This is a change lawmakers have considered several years now. It passed the House last legislative session but later died in a committee. Source WLBT

For the first time since the late 80s, West Virginia lawmakers are on track to pass the budget within the 60-day session.

But many Republicans still oppose expansion and the disagreement is threatening a possible state government shutdown as the House and Senate battle over the issue. Chris Jones said Thursday that the House and the Senate will not be able to come up with a compromise state budget by Saturday, when the 2018 session is set to end.

The requirement won't affect those on the state's traditional Medicaid program.

According to Republican Finance Chair Craig Blair, the budget includes no tax increases and includes an addition 21 million in funding for the PEIA Stability Fund.

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"The position of the Senate is likely to be the same because that's what our constituents have been telling us to do", said GOP Sen. Blair. "This is a historical event".

In a statement, House Speaker Kirk Cox said going home for a few days after Saturday's adjournment could let tensions cool and help fuel a deal later.

"Expanding Medicaid and investing savings in our public schools is good for those needing additional health coverage, and it is good for the health of our public schools", said Livingston, who estimates that the House budget includes $169 million more for K-12 school districts than the Senate, including assured, rather than conditional, raises in the second year.

Gov. Ralph Northam could also call a special session.

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While many bills have passed or been killed in the last two months, there are still dozens being considered in both chambers. After years of near-uniform opposition, Republicans are now split on the issue with the GOP-led House supporting Medicaid expansion while the GOP-led Senate opposes it.

The budget chairman had sent the legislation to the House floor without a Senate amendment to link enactment to funding in the budget.

Jones said Thursday that he will instead allow Dunnavant's bill to die without action in the House, which must complete action on all bills by midnight under the procedural resolution for the assembly session that began January 10.

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