Texas Governor’s Debate Features Medicaid Expansion Exchange

During the September 30, 2014 Texas gubernatorial debate, Sen. Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott had a 7-minute exchange about Medicaid expansion. Below is a transcription of the exchange between the two candidates.

Click here to jump to the point of the video of this exchange, which starts at the 29:34 mark.

Jeffers: Attorney General Abbott, a whole bunch of conservative states rejected Obamacare, but several of them came up with plans to use those federal dollars to create their own flexible systems to cover the uninsured. Right now Texas is turning its back on $100 billion in federal money. If elected governor, would you be willing to negotiate with the federal government on a plan that lowers premiums as well as reduces their tax burdens, or would you – like Governor Perry –refuse to talk to Washington and make a deal?

Abbott: Well, Gromer, what I think is the best strategy for the state of Texas would be for the state of Texas to be able to get a block grant where we would have that level of flexibility so we could address the unique health care challenges that the people of the state of Texas face. We know, Gromer, that these bureaucrats in Washington D.C., they don’t know how to address our health care problems here.

Jeffers: Let me just say – I hate to cut you off – but some conservatives, even in the Legislature, say a block grant is not a practical solution.

Abbott: Block grants have been used effectively in states like Rhode Island and Indiana, and I think they can be used now. But Gromer, lets even get beyond this. I have laid out strategies in which I will improve spending on areas where we can genuinely improve people’s lives. I want to increase spending on women’s health care, I want to increase spending for veterans, for the disabled, for mental health needs. But what I don’t want to do is to bankrupt Texas by imposing on Texas the overwhelming Obamacare disaster.

Jeffers: Sen. Davis if elected Governor, you will be dealing with an overwhelming Republican Legislature, unless Democrats get everything they want in November. How would you bring $100 billion to Texas?

Davis: You know, this is an issue about doing the right thing for the people of this state. I have to laugh when I hear Mr. Abbott talk about bankrupting Texas. Right now Texans are writing hard-earned tax dollars to the IRS, $100 billion of which will never come back to work for us in our state unless we bring it back. As governor, I will bring it back. Greg Abbott’s plan is to have you write that tax check and send it to California and New York. He is California’s best friend in Texas. There is a reason that Republican governors around this state (sic) have found a solution to bring that money to their states. There’s a reason chambers of commerce all around this state have all come forward begging us to do the right thing and bring that money back to work for us. It will create an estimated 300,000 jobs per year in our state. A true leader stops partisan posturing and does the right thing for her state and brings her tax dollars back to work for her community.

Jeffers: Attorney General Abbott, the County Judges for the six largest counties in this state want some sort of solution.

Abbott: It’s important for the people at home to understand this. If anybody believes that California is getting a penny more money because Texas is not participating in Obamacare, then they are the same people who believe the phrase by the President, “If you like your doctor, you get to keep your doctor.” Let me tell you the facts. The facts are that Texas, by not participating in Obamacare, California is not going to get one single penny more. Another fact is, if Texas does participate in Obamacare it will cost the taxpayers of Texas more than $10 billion during the first ten years of implementation. But even worse, if Texas participates, we are making a deal with a federal government that is $18 trillion in debt. That is a bargain I’m not willing to make as governor.

Jeffers: Sen. Davis, you’re chuckling and shaking your head.

Davis: Well, what Mr. Abbott is saying is just not true. Our tax dollars will go to supplement health care in California and New York if we do not bring them back here. Our check that we write to the IRS will not get any smaller, and in fact the checks that we write for our property taxes will grow. There’s a reason that Republican and Democratic county judges around this state have come together and unified around the idea of bringing that tax money back to work for us because they know that their hospital districts will have to increase taxes in order to take care of that unfunded care. Studies show that our investment to bring those dollars down will yield a net tremendous positive benefit for this state, including the job creation that will come from it.

Koffler: Thanks to both of you. We’re going to shift gears now, and we’re going to give the candidates each an opportunity to ask each other a question. We flipped a coin, and we’ll start with Attorney General Abbott, who has a question for Senator Davis.

Abbott: It can hardly be better for this question. I saw recently that you want to impose Obamacare on the people of Texas so badly that even if the conservative Texas Legislature would not vote to improve it, you would go around the Legislature and use an executive order to impose Obamacare on the people of Texas. So Senator, my question to you is, what part of the Texas constitution gives the governor the authority to go around the Legislature and use an executive order to impose a law like Obamacare?

Davis: What I’ve argued, Mr. Abbott, is that we should bring Medicaid expansion to Texas. Medicaid expansion is all about bringing our tax dollars back to work with us. And as a member of the Texas Legislature, I can tell you that every hospital association, every chamber of commerce member, and Republicans alike in our Texas Legislature agreed that we should do the right thing by our state and bring that money back to work for us. What I’ve also said is that Medicaid expansion included the authority to bring it to states through executive order. But what I would prefer to do, and what I will do with my Legislature, Republicans and Democrats alike – who know that this is the right thing to do for our communities, who aren’t afraid of being labeled as partisans and are interested in doing what is right by our citizens – and I’ll work with them to bring our tax dollars back, our community tax dollars, back to Texas and to keep property tax dollars from increasing. There is no question, no question whatsoever, that if we don’t bring this money back down to work for us, our citizens across this state are going to pay twice – once to the IRS with money they’ll never see again, and another time on the local level because someone will have to pay for the unfunded care somehow, someway.

Written by Phillip Martin, Progress Texas.