- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Democrat Parker Griffith said Alabama can’t afford four more years of Gov. Robert Bentley, attacking Bentley’s record on job creation, Medicaid and establishment of a state lottery.

“What do we have to show for the last four years? Are we better off? And the answer to that is a resounding no,” Griffith, the Democratic nominee for governor, said Wednesday.

The Democrat kept up his harsh criticisms of Bentley’s record in his uphill battle to unseat the Republican incumbent. He said Alabama was “giving away the farm” to foreign companies and renewed his call for expanding Medicaid and creating a state lottery.

Griffith made his comments during and after a wide-ranging speech to retired state employees. He said a lottery and Medicaid expansion will help jump start the economy and Bentley has not pushed for either.

Alabamians voted down a lottery in 1999, but Griffith said voters are now more familiar with the education benefits lotteries have provided in neighboring states.

“We are educating Tennessee’s children, Georgia’s children, Florida’s children,” Griffith said.

Establishing a state lottery would take a constitutional amendment, which requires a statewide vote but does not come before the governor to sign or veto. The governor can use the mantle of his office to push or oppose the idea to legislators and voters.

Bentley told the same group Tuesday that he is not opposed to a lottery, but thought lottery proceeds should be shared with the state’s perpetually cash-strapped General Fund that fuels prisons, Medicaid and other non-education expenses.

Griffith said the money should be steered only to education and not to legislators to distribute in the General Fund.

“It will be like throwing red meat in a dog pen. You will not know where it went,” the former state senator from Huntsville said.

The Democrat also questioned if the large incentive packages paid to lure some companies were worth the large price tag.

Griffith named several companies including a Chinese copper tubing plant that Bentley is featuring in one of his re-election ads. GD Copper USA was in line for state and local incentives worth $200 million. The company will eventually employee 300 people. Officials at the plant said the jobs will pay in the high $30,000 to low $40,000 range.

“We’re in bed with the Communist Chinese in Wilcox. We gave away the farm down there,” Griffith said.

The Democrat also criticized Bentley’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“I heard somebody say I’m not expanding Medicaid because we can’t afford it. You can’t afford not to,” Griffith said.

The Affordable Care Act offers federal funds to expand Medicaid in the state to cover people at up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $27,310 for a family of three in 2014. A study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham estimated 300,000 additional Alabamians would be covered under a Medicaid expansion.

Griffith, a radiation oncologist, said thousands of people in Alabama will die from cancers that have a high cure rate if caught early.

“We’re denying early diagnosis to 300,000 to 350,000 Alabamians,” Griffith said.

The Bentley campaign was not immediately available for comment.

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