Cracks in the Democratic Foundation

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce has been a Medicaid expansion advocate throughout this General Assembly session. The organization’s support has been a boon both to Gov. McAuliffe and to Democrats in general because it placed the most visible representative of Virginia’s business community on their side.

But in concert with the House Republican proposal yesterday to get the state budget done on time, and then tackle Medicaid, alone, in a special session, a crack has formed in the Democrat-business foundation:

“The Virginia Chamber of Commerce urges the General Assembly to work to pass a budget bill on time. Failure to do so could have serious implications for the Commonwealth. In 2013, again named Virginia as the Best State for Business. Without a budget, this status, as well as Virginia’s status as the best managed state in the country will be put in jeopardy. In addition, Virginia’s AAA bond rating could be threatened. If the process of budget negotiations goes too far beyond the scheduled due date, Virginia’s budget uncertainty could affect investment decisions by businesses and potentially discourage companies from locating or expanding in the Commonwealth.”

And later, in the same statement, we have this:

We ask members to find a constructive process to set aside any issue that may create an impasse and avoid jeopardizing Virginia’s reputation as the nation’s best managed state and the best state for business.”

A couple of things worth noting…

1. Someone other than myself and Paul Goldman touches on the AAA bond rating. This will become a much more important issue if the debate drags on through the spring.

2. The budget is the most important lever both sides have. If Republicans succeed in getting the budget separated from Medicaid, they have won. If Democrats succeed in keeping the two linked, it becomes a matter of attrition, and who blinks first before the current budget expires.

3. Terry McAuliffe has already given away a large part of the Democrats’ rhetorical advantage. As a House press release noted on Tuesday:

…Speaker Howell and others highlighted a letter that Governor McAuliffe sent last year to the Virginia Congressional Delegation urging them to “stop using the threat of a government shutdown as a bargaining chip in other negotiations, including over the health care law.” At the moment, it appears Governor McAuliffe has forgotten that he agrees with us – the budget should not be used as a bargaining chip.

Candidate McAuliffe’s latter can be found here. Also worth noting is this passage:

Virginia and our nation want leaders who will find commonsense solutions to the real challenges our communities face. For too long we have seen extreme factions of political parties threaten our economy and our national security when they don’t get everything they want.

The Virginia Chamber seems to have remembered Mr. McAuliffe’s words. Now to see if he, and General Assembly Democrats, do, too.