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Howell: McDonnell contradicting himself on Medicaid funding

Rosalind Helderman

A leading Northern Virginia Democrat Thursday asked Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to lobby on behalf of an imperiled proposal to provide the states additional Medicaid aid.

"It would be really helpful for the governor to be definitive on the subject," state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) told McDonnell's Secretary of Finance Ric Brown at a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee Thursday morning. "Right now, it's just one contradiction after another."

The additional funding from Washington had been considered such a foregone conclusion in state capitals that many states assumed they would receive the funds when writing next year's budget. Virginia did not follow that path, but did plan to use the additional aid to reverse several tough health care cuts.

Some of those cuts involved adjusting eligibility requirements for some Medicaid programs, adjustments that were subsequently made illegal by the federal health care bill. As a result, Virginia faces the prospect of a $165 million hole in its two-year budget if Congress does not approve the additional federal dollars.

But passage of the funding, which would come from extending enhanced Medicaid match rates, or FMAP, for states by six months, is now in doubt. It is embedded in a broad jobs bill in the U.S. Senate. Republicans and some Democrats have balked at approving the bill because it would increase the federal deficit.

Howell sharply questioned Brown about what the governor is doing to push for the money. Brown noted McDonnell signed a letter in February asking that it be approved but acknowledged that when asked about the issue this week, McDonnell told reporters that he is concerned about rising federal spending. He indicated to reporters that he did not plan to further advocate for the money.

"Is he going to contact the congressional delegation?" Howell asked, or, she asked, was he planning on leaving a months old letter to speak on his behalf.

"I haven't asked him that question," Brown replied. "I'd be glad to ask him for you."

After the meeting, Howell said the governor was trying to have it both ways, insisting he supports the money while declining to lobby on its behalf. "Either he supports the FMAP and supports our budget, or he doesn't," she said.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 17, 2010; 4:48 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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