Del. Ken Plum: Staying Ahead of the Feds

by Del. Ken Plum February 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm 10 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThe House and the Senate have penned similar but competing mid-point versions of the 2014-2016 biennial budget. These budgets will now go to a conference committee to work out differences in time for a Feb. 28 adjournment of the annual legislative session.

With both houses being under the same political party control, the differences are not great and will likely be easily reconciled.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe had proposed revisions to the Commonwealth’s budget, but his recommendations were ignored in one significant way: his budget proposal included the expansion of Medicaid for the working poor, but the majority party in both houses adamantly oppose it.

Had Medicaid expansion been approved, the state would have saved $107,000,000 in state spending in FY 2016 alone and would have picked up $482,300,000 in new federal money. The issue of this column is not Medicaid expansion, however, for which I have made my position known in several columns.

Instead, I want to focus on the paranoia in Richmond over the actions of the federal government that the opposition to Medicaid expansion reflects. That paranoia was reflected among other places in a budget amendment in the House that provided that “no general or non-general funds shall be appropriated or expended for such costs as may be intended to implement any federal program or Presidential executive action calling for ‘free’ tuition at institutions of higher education.”

The amendment passed with my speaking against it, suggesting that we should at least see the new program before we decided to oppose it.

Virginia has a long history of opposing federal action. Going back to 1798, James Madison introduced the concept of interposition – that the state could interpose itself between the federal government and the people when it deemed federal laws to be unconstitutional. Interposition or nullification has been used by many states to oppose federal actions on many issues. The Civil War was the most dramatic statement at attempted interposition.

 In the 1950s, Virginia attempted to interpose itself against federal action to desegregate the schools. Its efforts through more than 40 lawsuits became known as “massive resistance,” which of course ultimately failed.

The call has gone out once again for the need to protect ourselves against the federal government, particularly the Obama administration. Several bills, for example, were introduced this session to nullify actions of the Environmental Protection Agency in air and water quality regulations. Our federal system with its checks and balances have worked well for many years to protect citizens from a run-away government. At the same time, it creates challenges for smooth operation. This continuing power struggle diverts attention from the real issues of our economy and society and leads to the frustrations that many feel with the operation or gridlock of government.

The federal government is not always wrong. At the same time, the state government is not always right. The public expects that leaders work through these differences and that issues be resolved.

Del. Ken Plum (D)  represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinions are not necessarily those of Reston Now’s

  • Mike M

    How about stunning me and telling me a time when you thought the federal government was wrong and your state was right?

    PS: Don’t wear yourself out.

    • Greg

      Ken is a socialist. He’s depended on government, one way or another, since his birth so many decades ago. As such, all he wants is more and bigger government and more of our money to pay him and for his socialist agenda.

      Ask him, for example, what good it does citizens to pay for the dowdy poorly stocked ABC stores when neighboring well-stocked grocery and drug stores are allowed to sell beer and wine, but not spirits.

      • Mike M

        Agreed. And yet our neighbors continue to zombie into the polls and pull the lever next to the D. Makes me nervous about my neighbors. They would be the one’s on the road today with the Land Rovers taking up two lanes and going 3 mph because it is snowing. The getting stuck on the hills because they slowed down too much. Liberals make me tired.

        • Greg

          And liberals make you poor.

          • Mike M

            Eventually they will. I am not there yet.

  • Rational Reston

    Here’s the ever so short sighted Delegate Ken Plum, yes Virginia is leaving some Federal money on the table. But it is UNCERTAIN Federal money, the amount the Federal Government is committed to paying is already scheduled to ramp down, leaving Virginia on the hook for the rest. Also in this climate is it wise to trust that such funding would continue?

    Delegate Plum, unless YOU can come up with a constructive long term, sustainable financial solution, please stop your Quixotic crusade.

    Also, while the work against the free community college (which merely replaces the education we should be providing students in High School) is misguided, the end result is good, as the Federal Government is very good at pushing unfunded mandates on States and local governments. If their ideas are so good, they can provide for them.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    For me the struggle appears to do with ideology, you cannot fight rigid thinking and when the legislators start baking into law their own nuances and interpretations of what they think is right “on behalf of the collective” we see us regressing to fighting fire with fire – laws get so complex and out of hand its impossible to enforce them. Case in point, if the military would be held to the same standards as health care we would be able to cut the defense budget in half. Time to tighten the belt on both fronts.

    “This continuing power struggle diverts attention from the real issues of
    our economy and society and leads to the frustrations that many feel
    with the operation or gridlock of government.”

    Well said.

    • Greg

      You are right. Look at how many trillions we have spent on poverty and yet more people than ever are on the dole. In fact, more than 1/2 of students in Fairfax County qualify for subsidized meals. Clearly the “war on poverty” has been a complete failure, and yet the liberals want still more and more of the producers’ money?

    • Greg

      Also, ask Ken what kind of health care he has, whom it covers, and who funds most of it.

    • Rational Reston

      Unfortunately, Delegate Plum seems to fight rigid thinking with his own rigid thinking.


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