Mike Pease enjoys a kayaking trip on the Clinch River in this photo taken near St. Paul. Roger Davis photo.
WISE — Although a state budget deal remains elusive in Richmond, funding to create a new state park along the Clinch River in parts of Wise, Scott and Russell counties appears to be a safe bet for the time being.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled state Senate are at loggerheads with the Republican-controlled House of Delegates over McAuliffe's insistence on linking his desire to expand Medicaid under Obamacare to the budget. Republicans want to pass a "clean" state budget and address the Medicaid expansion issue in special session, but the governor is using the budget impasse as leverage.
Late Thursday, state Delegate Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, announced funding to establish a new Clinch River State Park — $5 million over two years — has been included in the House version of the budget. A Chafin aide and state Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, said confidence is high a final state budget will include Clinch River funds, if and when the budget impasse gets resolved one way or another.
On Friday, Kilgore said the Senate and House have been quite close — except for the Medicaid expansion link — on a state budget and one could be passed quickly and without rancor if not for the Medicaid expansion issue.
"I think we're less than (half a percent) off (between the Senate and House versions of a state budget). We're really not that far apart. It's not anything that can't be taken care of in an afternoon, really," he said.
Funding to begin establishing a state park along the Clinch River — currently envisioned as stretching from Cleveland in Russell County through St. Paul in Wise County to at least Dungannon/Fort Blackmore in Scott County — should be a part of any final package, Kilgore said. Initial funding, he said, would probably involve some land acquisition and easements to provide access points for boating and other recreational improvements.
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