- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2009

Republican Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell says a proposal by Gov. Tim Kaine that would grant benefits to the partners of gay state employees likely won’t survive into his administration if it comes with a price tag.

The proposal by Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, would extend benefits to any qualified adult living in the home of a state employee. Mr. McDonnell on Tuesday called that public health goal laudable but said he needed to see the regulation and a specific cost analysis.

“I don’t think we can afford any new state expenditures due to the $3 billion shortfall,” Mr. McDonnell said.

Mr. Kaine last week said that under his proposal state employees, who currently can extend their coverage to their spouses and children, would be able to include other “qualified” adults, including heterosexual or homosexual partners, who live in the employee’s household. Currently, state employees pay 80 percent of the costs for their benefits.

Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kaine, said the proposal would “be at no cost to the state” because the employee would be required to cover the entire cost of the coverage.

“Offering health coverage to other qualified adults including adult children, in-laws, and domestic partners - at no cost to the state - is a logical next step that is in keeping with the governor’s belief that we ought to be doing what we can to ensure security for the insured, provide access to coverage for the uninsured, and reduce costs for everyone,” she said.

Lawyers for the incoming governor have been looking at the proposal, Mr. McDonnell said, but “concepts are concepts. I want to see the regulation before I can comment any further.”

Mr. McDonnell said he likes the idea that it would be the state extending benefits as opposed to the federal government.

“I’m certainly supportive of public and private sector insurance-based programs to expand health insurance,” he said, noting that it could help a significant number of the 15 percent or 16 percent of uninsured Virginians.

But the outgoing governor’s proposal raises too many questions to determine whether it would be feasible without further analysis, Mr. McDonnell said. He wants to know if there will be a limit on the number of people per house who can be covered, who has to pay, and whether it would expand the cost to the entire state pool of employees.

Early in his tenure as Attorney General in February 2006, Mr. McDonnell declared Mr. Kaine’s Executive Order No. 1 unconstitutional. The order added sexual orientation as a protected class of employment within state government. Mr. McDonnell argued that the governor exceeded his authority by effectively changing the law in an area where the General Assembly had indicated precedence.

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