I requested Governor McAuliffe include a provision in his budget to accept federal Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid to cover everyone making less than 138% of the federal poverty level. This would cover hundreds of thousands of Virginians and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in direct costs and billions indirectly.
As Republicans have complained in the past about the proposal’s relatively low cost to Virginia (no cost for three years, then just 10% of the cost for the following seven years), I suggested that the Governor require Virginia hospitals to pay this relatively small portion, so that Virginia taxpayers would not have to pay anything. Virginia hospitals have told me they favor this proposal, as it is less expensive for them to pay this than to treat hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians in emergency rooms. I’m glad to say the Governor has supported the plan and has included this program in his budget.
Increased Funding for Domestic Violence Shelters
The state grants money to localities via the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Victims Fund to provide funds for prosecution, law enforcement, and victims’ services, including domestic violence shelters. In the last budget cycle, this fund was more than doubled to reach $3 million. Even with that increase, the number of beds available in domestic violence shelters has been inadequate, so I requested that this increased number be put in place again in this year’s budget. Governor McAuliffe has agreed with my request. This will help local groups like Bethany House and Doorways provide more services for victims of domestic violence.
Clean Power Plan and Renewable Energy Incentives
I requested Governor McAuliffe fully fund and implement the President’s Clean Power Plan and offer incentives to property owners who use renewable energy. Although my proposals were not included in the budget itself, the Governor has recently announced a plan that will greatly increase the use of solar energy in Virginia through agreements with utilities and through the use of the state’s market power.
Increased Funding for Child Advocacy Centers
Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) throughout Virginia provide comprehensive services to victims of child abuse and neglect to help investigate, treat, and prosecute reported cases. They also do a fantastic job at helping to intervene to prevent child abuse before it starts. During the recession, the state cut its funding for CACs from $1 million to $931,000. That funding has remained the same since then, despite the fact that up to 11 new CACs could be established in 2016. I requested that this funding be increased to $2 million to account for the increased number of CACs. Unfortunately, this request was not included in the Governor’s budget. I will be submitting a budget amendment this month in order to make sure that CACs receive the funding they need.
Body Cameras for Law Enforcement
I support providing municipalities the option of outfitting Virginia law enforcement with body cameras in order to protect both our officers and our communities. I proposed to the Governor a $5 million line item in the budget to provide 1 for 1 matching funds to localities that institute body cameras in their local police departments. This request was not included in the Governor’s budget, but I intend to submit legislation this session to push this goal forward.