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September 17, 2014

A River (of Money) Runs Through It

Turns out it’s not just state government that relies on federal money to deliver essential services to Virginians: federal resources bolster the budgets of every one of Virginia’s 134 localities, too. From Wise County to Arlington; Accomack to Winchester; and everywhere in between.

Throughout the ongoing debate over closing the coverage gap, a key talking point for opponents has centered on distrust of the federal government and its ability to hold up its end of the bargain in funding almost all the costs of providing people with health insurance.

Well, if lawmakers question Virginia’s reliance on federal funds going to the state, then federal funds flowing to the localities in their districts should be of concern, too.

After all, it’s a lot of money.

Knowing that more than 21 percent of the state’s revenue comes from Washington, we decided to take a closer look at how much federal funding supports Virginia localities. That info is found in an annual report from the Auditor of Public Accounts that pulls together revenue and spending data for the commonwealth’s localities. It shows that over $1.9 billion in federal resources a year go to Virginia localities to help cover the cost of education, health care, and other essential public services.

Click on the image below to view tables that sum how much goes to the localities associated with each Virginia House and Senate district.


The fact is, Virginia relies on federal support for core services that people rely on at every level of government. So if lawmakers – or anyone else – were really concerned that the federal government can’t be relied upon to provide needed funding for closing the coverage gap, you’d think they’d also be busy shoring up education and all the other areas where federal funding helps cover the costs. But they aren’t. And why would they? The money is safe – just like the money Washington would spend to make sure more Virginians have medical care.

So who’s kidding who?

As lawmakers head back to Richmond Thursday for a special legislative session to debate expanding Medicaid in Virginia, it’s time to put the excuses aside and make the right decision on closing the coverage gap.

The deal before them is full federal funding of all the costs through 2016 and no less than 90 percent after that.

Too good to be true? Nope.

Too good to turn down? You bet.

–Sara Okos, Policy Director

The Commonwealth Institute

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