RICHMOND, Va. -

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe says he will make Medicaid expansion a priority once he takes office. And he's reaching out to the state's business leaders to build support for the proposal.

Medicaid expansion could extend health care benefits to 400-thousand more Virginians, but so far the state has resisted the federal offer, with critics of expansion raising concerns about the long term impact on state finances.

Speaking to reporters last week during an event organized by the Associated Press, McAuliffe said it's a moral issue, and an economic one.

"There is no excuse for denying hundreds of thousands of our neighbors access to lifesaving health care that people in other states are getting," McAuliffe said during his prepared remarks, "but for me expanding Medicaid is also smart business."

Still it remains a hard sell for many Republicans, including Delegate Bob Marshall. After listening to McAuliffe speak about the issue, Marshall said he fears an unlimited commitment to Medicaid that the state cannot afford.

"When I was listening to Governor McAuliffe it kind of reminded me of Barack Obama without a teleprompter," Marshall said in an interview. "I mean he's obviously a good talker. He's very personable, gregarious, but he wants to pursue a policy that is getting a lot of people in trouble in Washington. And I don't think that's the best way to go."

Medicaid expansion will be a high profile issue during the General Assembly session that starts in January, but McAuliffe will need Republican support to make it happen.

"This is going to be a process where we all need to sit at a table," McAuliffe told reporters ." I like to say how do we find common ground? How does this make sense for all of us."