Members of the Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates met to discuss the upcoming legislative session at a panel hosted by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.
Jason Hickman of Compton and Duling asked questions of State Senators George Barker, Dick Black, Scott Surovell, and Jeremy McPike and Delegates Scott Lingamfelter, Jackson Miller, and Rich Anderson about their legislative priorities and some of the top current issues in Virginia.
One of the topics discussed was Medicaid and healthcare access and how that could be impacted by the incoming presidential administration.
Barker expressed concerns about how the current funding for Virginia’s Medicaid program could be ‘locked in’ by the incoming administration, which could have negative impacts for Medicaid recipients.
“There is a lot of concern in Virginia about the potential for moving to a block-grant system. We have had a very conservative Medicaid program and if you take the Medicaid expenditures of every state and compared to the number of low income people in that state, we are 46th in the country in terms of expenditures. So if suddenly it gets block-granted, we got block-granted at a very low level, which then puts us in a very difficult position,” said Barker.
Black felt that the low rates for Medicaid expenditures were a good thing for Virginia’s workforce.
“I don’t know what will come out of Washington [D.C.]…we are down low on the level of Medicaid reimbursements but at the same time, it keeps us with a healthy workforce and I think that’s good. I don’t think – I think that you want to have a safety net, but you don’t want to have a safety hammock,” said Black.
Preschool and early education access were also discussed, specifically in relation to the Virginia Preschool Initiative, which is a matching program between localities and the state that provides preschool funding and access to qualified 4 year olds.
Hickman stated that currently the utilization of this program is low.
“I think everyone up here realizes and looks at right now it’s a 50/50 match where Prince William County there are certainly those who’d like to push it to 100% from the state – that’s not realistic in our budget climate – which has a $1.5 billion revenue shortfall. However, we have to continue to look at ways and opportunities to continue looking at expanding education for those who might not have an opportunity to send their kid to preschool,” said McPike.
Several different topics came to light when the legislators were asked about their legislative priorities for the coming session in Richmond.
For Surovell, one of his top priorities is allowing anyone in Virginia that files a tax return to be able to get a driver’s license, regardless of their citizenship status.
“If you can show you filed taxes in the state of Virginia, and you pass a driving test, I think you ought to be able to get a license. Of the 11 states in the country that have done this, accidents have been [lowered] by 10% because the people are learning the rules of the road…hit and runs go down by 25%…we have a $1.5 billion budget deficit – if 300,000 people claimed taxes and have $35,000 of income on their taxes, it generates $561 million in tax revenue. If 300,000 people pay $1,000 insurance cost it generates another $260 million…if we give licenses to everybody, we won’t have a budget deficit,” said Surovell.
Anderson mentioned that he would be moving forward on a distracted driving bill, which has been met with bi-partisan support. He is also entering a bill that would modify Virginia’s recall process for elected officials.
“We have had several fairly high-profile recall processes underway for elected officials in Virginia, across the state…so earlier this year, I got interested in this and I found out the courts make the decision…there’s a sacred contract between elected people and the people they represent so if somebody has a recall procedure in place, the people ought to make that decision in a special election, as they do in most states,” said Anderson.
To take a look at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s legislative priorities for the year, click here.
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