The Koch brothers’ group is getting involved in Louisiana’s Obamacare fight


U.S. flags and Gadsden flags fly in the breeze as Americans For Prosperity holds a tea party rally outside the Capitol to emphasize their desire for huge spending cuts in the budget, April, 6, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

A major opponent of Obamacare is doubling down in Louisiana ahead of the start of that state’s 2014 legislative session.

The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity — the national tea party group founded by brothers Charles and David Koch — launched on Jan. 2 and is pressing each of Louisiana’s 144 lawmakers to pledge opposition to expanding Medicaid under the law.

“For our state legislative session, this is priority number one,” says AFP-Louisiana State Director Phillip Joffrion. The group sent out pledges to each member of the state’s House and Senate on Friday morning and expects the lawmakers to begin receiving the pledges by early next week. The effort is matched by a seven-city town hall tour in advance of the March 10 start of the legislative session.

Fighting Medicaid expansion in Louisiana will be one of the state AFP chapter’s top priorities during the session. Others include: tort reform, education reform that protects or strengthens state rights and weakens federal control, reducing government regulations, and opposing tax increases (though, he notes, this is a non-fiscal session).

“We’re here to support lowering taxes and reducing the size of government as well as fighting Medicaid expansion,” Joffrion says.

The chapter is targeting federal lawmakers in its anti-expansion push, too. The group launched this year with a $600,000 ad buy against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) over her support for Obamacare. (Landrieu’s race is one to watch — it’s ranked sixth on The Fix’s list of the top 10 Senate races of the year.)

Despite the pressure, Landrieu has continued her push for expansion, encouraging residents to sign a petition urging Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to opt in.

“This is her reconfirming, recommitting her vote on Obamacare,” Joffrion said.

Exactly half of states are moving forward with expansion, while 21 are not. Four are considering it. Studies have shown certain downsides to refusing expansion. Louisiana, for example, stands to lose $1.7 billion in federal funds through 2022, according to the pro-reform Commonwealth Fund. Tax services company Jackson Hewitt said in a January report that Louisiana employers may face anywhere from $42 million to $61 million in annual tax penalties.

The federal government will pay the full cost of expansion for the first three years and 90 percent annually thereafter, but opponents say there’s no guarantee that Congress won’t simply vote to change that funding formula as needed.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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