BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana branch of a conservative national organization has launched an anti-tax campaign in the midst of the second special session aimed at filling in the state's projected $600 million shortfall for next fiscal year.
Americans for Prosperity began putting cards in mailboxes in several regions of the state earlier this week, urging people to call their representative and tell them to vote against tax measures.
"Notice! State sales taxes increased 25 percent thanks to Rep. Larry Bagley," reads one. "Now, some in Baton Rouge want to raise taxes even more. Louisiana CAN'T AFFORD more taxes!"
Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, is just one of a handful of Republican lawmakers across the state featured on the cards. Many are in their first term, including Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, and Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma.
"I think they're trying to probably control me, to make me be afraid," Bagley said.
Bagley and the others voted to increase the sales tax by a penny during the first special session as part of an effort to fill what was then a nearly $1 billion deficit for the current fiscal year.
"When I came here did not want to vote for taxes, because I'm a Republican, I'm a conservative," Bagley said. "But even a conservative Republican can see you can't run something when you're broke."
The Americans for Prosperity organization is headquartered outside of Washington, D.C., though there are branch offices in Louisiana. The organization receives funding from the Koch brothers, billionaire businessmen known for their donations to right-wing causes.
John Kay serves as the state director for Americans for Prosperity. He said that rather than raise taxes, lawmakers need to look for efficiencies in the budget an identify more places to cut.
"These folks, they got elected in November, they came in in February. Less than a month into their new positions as legislators, and they cast votes to raise taxes, after running as conservatives, and that's unacceptable," Kay said. "We told the representatives before they took the vote in February/March that we were going to score that vote, and we were going to tell the people in their district how they voted."
Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, said she believes the organization is threatening these legislators at a time when they are voting on several revenue bills. Kay denies this.
"That to me is unconscionable," Smith said. "These are new legislators, who are here to learn the process and to be able to vote for what they feel their conscious makes them vote for."
So far, Bagley said the cards have not influenced his vote.
"They spent a lot of money on me that they could have saved," he said.
So far this session, Bagley has joined several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voting in support of measures that generate more than $200 million next year.
Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday.