Both Democratic Candidates for Governor in Arkansas say the private option of Medicaid expansion was the best deal available to the state but disagree on the bulk of the federal health care overhaul.
Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and former Fourth District Congressman Mike Ross spoke to members of the Delta Grass Roots Caucus Friday at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.
Halter called out his Democratic opponent on his vote against the federal health care law saying that Ross now praises the private option of Medicaid expansion developed during the recent legislative session.
Speaking to reporters afterward he said if the other three candidates for Governor had their way, there would be no plan to insure thousands of low-income Arkansans.
“Congressman Ross voted against the health care reform bill, then after it was law he voted to repeal it,” Halter said. “So, these things followed in sequence. If you did not have the health care reform bill provided, you wouldn’t have had a private option.”
Ross answered to reporters later that he’s always said there were good parts and bad to the federal health care overhaul.
“I’ve always said that the Medicaid expansion was a good part, Governor Beebe at the time of the vote in 2009 had said that if he had been in congress he would have voted against the health care bill, we wouldn’t have had the private option today without his leadership, I support the private option just as Governor Beebe did,” Ross said.
Halter also said Ross was against the scholarship lottery and is now for it. Ross said more scholarships are good, but the lottery has challenges and hasn’t yet reached its revenue goals.
Halter worked to create the scholarship lottery program while serving as Lieutenant Governor.
Both candidates for the Democratic nomination for Governor also said they want to improve education in the state should they be elected.
Ross says he wants to improve early childhood education while Halter wants to fund more college scholarships. Ross questioned the feasibility of Halter’s scholarship plan, which is called the Arkansas Promise.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees, and this isn’t Washington, and we can’t print money, and we can’t spend more than we take in, and my number one priority as Governor is going to be ensuring we have a balanced budget,” Ross said.
Halter told reporters with growth in state revenue, room could be found in the budget to fund additional scholarships.
“There are resources there, but ultimately budgets are always about choices and what I’m saying is that the Arkansas Promise is one of the highest return investments that we could make and I’m going to push for it,” Halter said.