WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- The head of the Democratic Governors Association, Martin O'Malley, said that while tackling economic issues is at the top of the list for Democratic gubernatorial candidates around the country, implementing the Affordable Care Act is also high on the list because it connects to job creation.
At the National Governors Association gathering here on Saturday, O'Malley, governor of Maryland, said that he sees health care reform and job creation going hand-in-hand as health care reform frees up state funds for other purposes. He made the comments after a health committee meeting that centered on controlling the cost of Medicaid.
"As Democrats, we should do a better job of saying that in order to be competitive, we need to stop wasting money on rising, out-of-control costs," O'Malley said.
O'Malley, who was one of the first governors to move ahead with implementing the Affordable Care Act, said that he understood why not all of his counterparts have done likewise. Individual states' political climates, including the presence of Republican-controlled legislatures, have hampered some Democratic governors.
"You have to acknowledge that forging a consensus in Maryland is an easier task than other states," O'Malley said. "We elect good leaders -- and all Democratic governors are good leaders -- to manage the details of the implementation. Some have easier legislatures than others."
O'Malley said he does not think that Republicans will be able to use the health care issue against Democratic gubernatorial candidates this year, noting that he believed the effort failed against incumbents Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia and Steve Beshear of Kentucky during the 2011 elections. He said he expects most Democrats to follow the example set by Tomblin and Beshear of focusing on economic issues.
According to O'Malley, those economic issues -- including job creation and outsourcing -- dominated a private breakfast meeting that Democratic governors held Saturday morning. He said that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn discussed a letter Quinn has written urging Congress to pass "insourcing" tax credits, which he planned to circulate to all governors over the weekend.
Moving back to health care, O'Malley said he believes the Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act was beneficial because it helped educate more Americans about the law.
"A larger number of Americans have taken a closer look at what the ACA does," the governor said. "They want to move on."