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Corey Stewart’s Secret Tax Plan Weapon: Medicaid Expansion?

It has now been 32 days [1] since Corey Stewart’s campaign sent out a hastily assembled press release, claiming he had a secret tax plan that would save Virginians 17.4 percent, and eventually reduce the Virginia state income tax to zero.

Since then, March 16th, Stewart’s campaign has still yet to reveal any additional specifics to their tax plan.

Except one Facebook graphic.

Almost nothing on this graphic indicates anything about Stewart’s plan that hadn’t been thrown into the press release, border counties of Tennessee down to 0 percent (not those counties bordering West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., or North Carolina), a 17.4 percent initial tax cut, etc.

Yet one detail does stand out: Corey Stewart’s support for a 20 percent cap on Virginia Medicaid spending.

First, that’s remarkable, since in Fiscal Year 2016, according to JLARC [3], Medicaid already accounts for twenty-two percent of Virginia’s budget.

Second, and most importantly, (literally) every projection has Virginia’s Medicaid expenditures continuing to climb, expecting to grow by at least 2-3 percent in the next two years. Which would Virginia’s Medicaid expenditures nearing 25 percent (or more) of the Virginia budget.

So how can Corey Stewart either:

1) Cut federally-mandated Medicaid spending by 5 or more percent?

2) Stop Medicaid’s budget percentage from continuing to grow?

There are two possible answers:

1) Corey Stewart believes what Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump do not, that Obamacare will be repealed and replaced, with federal Medicaid allocations reverting into a system of block grants dispersed to the states. This would allow states to decrease the number of patients on the Medicaid rolls, theoretically reducing spending.

2) Corey Stewart believes that Virginia should enact Medicaid Expansion.

On first glance, you’d have to believe it would be the former, that Congress will sort out a plan that repeals Obamacare and replaces it with a different system.

However, the block grant aspect of the bill was one of the most contentious parts [4] of the final version, with states and a number of Republicans vehemently opposed [5], as the pressure it would put on their state budgets would be incredible. States already dealing with budget impacts of Medicaid, like Arkansas and Ohio, would see their budgets nearly implode due to the weight of the Medicaid rolls. Virginia estimated it would lose more than $300 million over the next two years. [5] Any form of a federal block grant would certainly slash Virginia’s federal allotment of Medicaid funding, putting pressure on state finances, and making it an impossibility for Stewart’s tax cut to get off the ground.

Further, Stewart’s campaign released their Medicaid cap proposal after the American Health Care Act failed. With no pending legislation, it’s hard to believe Corey Stewart’s camp would tie such a key plank of their campaign, their tax cut, to a fictitious piece of legislation.

Block grants may cut Virginia’s federal funding, but they certainly would not cap the budget percentage from growing, and they would inevitably result in higher expenditures from the Virginia budget. If Stewart is claiming a hardline 20 percent cap, block grants do not fit the bill.

Which would leave one remaining option.

Medicaid Expansion.

At first, I thought it may have been crazy too. But consider how the current field stands.

Corey Stewart, Mr. Trump before Trump was Trump, has governed as a more moderate politician in Prince William County. He has supported both county spending cuts and property tax increases in his four terms on the Board of Supervisors. If Stewart believes that Medicaid Expansion is the best way for Virginia’s budget to stabilize, and it provides an likely avenue to pay for his tax cut, he’d certainly have to support it. Similar to President Trump’s support of preexisting conditions and other popular elements of Obamacare, Stewart may see a similar path in Medicaid Expansion.

Also keep in mind, a poll last month found that 61 percent of Virginians support some fashion of Medicaid Expansion [6]. If Stewart were to be looking for a populist issue for him to disagree with the front-running campaign of Ed Gillespie, Medicaid Expansion would certainly fit the bill. It would also give Stewart’s camp a legitimate policy contrast to run on, as opposed to supporting war memorials and Confederate flag waving.

Stewart also has a complete lack of support in the General Assembly. Nearly every member of the General Assembly has either endorsed Gillespie, or sat out in deference to State Senator Frank Wagner, and not a single legislator has endorsed Corey Stewart’s campaign. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has been steadfast in refusal supporting Medicaid Expansion, including during reconvene session just two weeks ago. Stewart has made a number of references to “draining the swamp in Richmond,” which would include all of those General Assembly folks not supporting him, and not supporting Medicaid Expansion. And indeed, should Stewart prevail having supported Medicaid Expansion, he could easily argue a mandate from Virginians in support of such legislation.

When comparing the two options, the only legitimate solution to a fixed 20 percent Medicaid spending cap is Medicaid Expansion, with federal dollars plugging the gap, and diverting Virginia budget resources to pay for Stewart’s tax cut.

I reached out to Stewart’s campaign last week after their graphic was posted, asking for clarification on how a Medicaid spending cap would function, including Medicaid Expansion. We have not received a response.

Which is weird, because Bearing Drift is the official conservative blog of Corey Stewart [7].

@bearingdrift [8] is one of the only credible Virginia news sites. Read theirs not @BullElephant [9] #FakeNews [10] #VAGov [11]

— Corey Stewart (@CoreyStewartVA) December 14, 2016 [12]