Bentley discussed his opposition to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to a room full of more than 100 Cleburne County Republicans Saturday night. The governor also touted his efforts to cut state spending and how he will continue that trend if re-elected.
Bentley spoke in front of more than 100 voters, elected officials and candidates as the guest speaker for the Cleburne County Republican Party annual winter dinner in the Heflin Community Center. A good portion of his speech was dedicated to why he will not expand the federal insurance program Medicaid, reiterating comments he made earlier this week during his State of the State address.
Under the ACA, states that choose to can receive full federal funding for three years to expand their Medicaid programs and provide health care to more poor Americans that cannot afford insurance. Alabama is one of 25 states to not expand its Medicaid program.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 113,000 more Alabamians would be eligible for Medicaid if it was expanded.
Bentley, however, said the federal government is trillions of dollars in debt and does not want Alabama to contribute to that problem.
"I'm not going to put more able-bodied individuals on a dependency program," Bentley said. "What we need to do in Alabama is work hard every day to create opportunities for people and educate people."
Bentley said government needs to be more pro business, noting that under his administration, the state has gained 59,400 jobs since 2011.
"And we're not going to stop," Bentley said. "We are going to make sure our high schools continue to make workers."
Bentley said the federal government needs to cut spending to get out of debt, including through a series of budget cuts known as sequestration.
"If we don't sequester on a federal level and save on a federal level, then we're truly doomed," Bentley said. "Debt is one of the greatest threats to our nation."
The automatic budget spending cuts known as sequestration began last year. The billions of dollars in cuts resulted in savings, but also in federal job losses and work furloughs, including at the Anniston Army Depot. Congress temporarily rolled back sequestration for this year as part of of a budget agreement in December.
Bentley discussed how he and the state Legislature cut state spending and streamlined government in recent years.
"In 2011, Alabama was totally broke ... it was the worst situation this state had been in since the Great Depression," Bentley said.
Bentley said some residents advised him to raise taxes to save the state from financial ruin.
"I was not for raising taxes ... I believed making government more efficient," Bentley said. "And with the help of the Legislature, we have truly cut government and made it more efficient ... we have saved the people of Alabama $1 billion annually."
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.