Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne drew contrasts between himself and U.S. Sen. David Vitter and said Monday the state should do a thorough review on whether Medicaid expansion makes sense for Louisiana.
“I don’t think we have provided the kind of scrutiny we should,” Dardenne said when asked about expanding Medicaid.
The Republican made his comments at the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
Dardenne and Republican Vitter are among the contenders to succeed Gov. Bobby Jindal in the race for governor in 2015. Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, says he is running, and GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy also is a possibility.
During the question-and-answer session, Dardenne said there are clear stylistic differences between himself and Vitter.
He said that, while he has spent his career here and run two state agencies, Vitter has been in Washington, D.C., “for quite some period of time.”
However, he conceded that he and Vitter agree on many issues.
“I think there are going to be some significant similarities in policy,” Dardenne said.
Dardenne is a former state senator and secretary of state.
Vitter is a former state representative and U.S. representative and was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.
The Medicaid issue stems from the 2010 Affordable Care Act .
The state and federal health insurance plan for the poor covers about one in every four Louisiana residents. Another 200,000 or so residents — depending on who is counting — make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy adequate coverage on the private market.
The Affordable Care Act provided incentives for states to change their Medicaid eligibility definitions and cover those uninsured residents.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is up to states to decide whether to accept the widened coverage, which Jindal opposes.
The expanded coverage is supposed to be financed by the federal government for the first three years, then 90 percent after that.
The governor says Medicaid is a broken system and the state cannot afford to expand it, and efforts to override Jindal’s stance in the Legislature have failed.
“I think we ought to look at it,” Dardenne said.
He said the state might consider trying to craft a plan that wins federal approval but that also offers the state protection in case promised federal aid fails to materialize.
Vitter told the Press Club in June that he too would look at Medicaid expansion but that several conditions would have to be made.
In another area, Dardenne said the state should review its tax credits and other breaks to make sure they are fair.
The state faces a $1.2 billion shortfall for the financial year that begins on July 1.
However, Jindal opposes any tax hike and any such move would face huge political hurdles, especially because 2015 is an election year.
“We will not tax our way to prosperity,” said Dardenne, former chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee.
In 2013 Jindal tried to overhaul the state’s tax system by abolishing Louisiana’s income tax in favor of higher sales taxes.
The proposal died quickly for lack of support.
Dardenne, whose office oversees state tourism efforts, said the state had more than 27 million visitors last year, which is 1 million more that the 2012 record.
“It is almost $1 billion in state revenue from people that don’t live here,” he said.
He said LouisianaTravel.com ranks fourth nationally for similar websites, trailing only Michigan, Massachusetts and Oregon.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/