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Howell not optimistic on transportation revenue deal in upcoming General Assembly session
He also said he doesn't support a tax increase--including an increase in the gas tax. But, Howell said, he wouldn't consider indexing the gas tax to be a tax increase. McDonnell holds the same position.
Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, said a compromise between those who favor using general funds for transportation and those who want a gas tax increase is "going to be tough," although he said he was optimistic it could happen.
It will require, Stuart said, strong leadership from McDonnell.
The legislative panel also included Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, and Del. Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline.
They took questions not just on transportation but also about tort reform--the state Chamber has several such bills it wants passed-- and what the state plans to do about the federal Affordable Care Act.
Virginia leaders must decide if they want to set up a state-based health insurance exchange or use a federal one, and they also must decide whether to expand the state's Medicaid eligibility.
So far, McDonnell and lawmakers seem inclined to do neither.
Lawmakers on the panel echoed concerns McDonnell has expressed about a lack of information on what exactly the state must do, and how exchanges would work.
Howell said that while the federal government will cover the costs for expanding Medicaid for the first few years, that money won't be provided forever, and he has doubts about how the federal government--which already has massive budget issues of its own--can really pay for trillions of dollars for Medicaid expansion in the states.
Howell said if Virginia expanded the Medicaid eligibility, it would add about 400,000 people to the rolls and cost--above the federal payments--about $1.8 to $2.2 billion over nine years.
"We just don't have the money," Howell said.
The 2013 General Assembly session starts Jan. 9.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028