Days after taking office, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia told the General Assembly on Monday evening that Medicaid eligibility should be expanded in the state.
McAuliffe, in an address to lawmakers, said the state can't afford to forgo $2.1 billion a year in federal funds by not expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law to about 400,000 Virginians.
"This money represents tax payments that Virginians have sent — and will continue to send — to Washington regardless of whether we seized this opportunity or not," McAuliffe said, according to an advance copy of his remarks.
The issue is set to be one of the most contentious of this year's legislative session.
Leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates have steadfastly rejected McAuliffe's overtures to expand Medicaid, saying the state should not rely on the federal government's promises of future payments.
Speaking in broad terms, McAuliffe promised to work in bipartisan fashion as governor, a frequent pledge he made prior to assuming office that's likely to soon be tested as the 2014 legislative session gears up.
The new governor also stressed the need to diversify the state's economy away from dependence on the federal government. He also called for improving workforce development and reforming standardized testing in public education.
McAuliffe also indicated his support for a proposal to allow undocumented immigrants who are Virginia residents to pay in-state tuition at public universities.
McAuliffe also declared that the tolls are too high for drivers using Virginia's Midtown Tunnel Project linking Norfolk and Portsmouth. McAuliffe says he had directed Virginia's transportation secretary to present a revised tolling rate schedule to the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday.
McAuliffe took the oath of office as Virginia's 72nd governor on Saturday, succeeding a Republican, Bob McDonnell.
Winning office was a years-long effort by McAuliffe, who unsuccessfully sought his party's nomination in 2009. He spent the next four years touring Virginia and campaigning, then won his first elective office by narrowly defeating Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in November.
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