- - Monday, April 14, 2014

Turning down free money is hard to do, but turning down such money is usually to do the right thing. When the “generosity” is from the federal government, it’s always better to say no.

It’s refreshing to see that Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates haven’t budged in their monthlong showdown with Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Democrat-controlled state Senate over whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. When Medicaid consumes nearly 25 percent of Virginia’s budget, it would be fiscal folly to further pump up the bloat by signing up another 400,000 subsidy recipients.

Mr. McAuliffe and Senate Democrats don’t care about the long-term financial implications, but only about scoring political points and winning elections. They’re holding the two-year $96 billion state budget hostage, hoping Republicans will cave to avert a state government shutdown that would occur if a budget isn’t passed and signed into law by July 1.

To hear President Obama tell it, mean-spiritedness on the part of Republicans, in Virginia and elsewhere, is behind opposition to Medicaid expansion, since the federal government would pick up most of the tab. To date, 26 states have taken the federal money. “We have states who just out of political spite are leaving millions of people uninsured who could be getting health insurance right now,” Mr. Obama said Friday. “No good reason for it. If you ask them, ‘What’s the explanation?’ they can’t really tell you.”

Mr. Obama knows better. Plenty of people could tell him, if he wants to listen. Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, says taxpayers lose an estimated $100 billion a year to waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. The state would lose even more by making either program substantially larger.

Republican backbone on this issue is surprising, considering how just a year ago the Virginia party splintered over a transportation-funding boondoggle pushed by Bob McDonnell, who was then the Republican governor. A number of tax increases followed.

Tax increases are inevitable if Virginia is suckered into taking the $2 billion federal bribe. With the U.S. Treasury $17.5 trillion in debt already, even the federal leviathan can’t keep paying those handouts forever. A state that expands eligibility now will be eventually be stuck paying in full for those new enrollees.

Even if the government can continue to borrow from China to pay the subsidies, future generations of Americans will work longer hours to pay off today’s profligacy. The smart choice, the choice Virginia Republicans are making, is saying no to the “free” money.