JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Four Republican state senators launched a filibuster Tuesday against legislation reauthorizing Missouri's use of about $467 million of federal stimulus money, vowing to talk until colleagues concede to cut about 10 percent of that funding.
The stalling effort is being led by the same four senators who delayed a vote earlier this year on legislation renewing Missouri's participation in a program that provides federally funded jobless benefits to people who have been unemployed for a year and a half.
The senators, who have expressed frustration with federal spending, let the unemployment bill pass last month after Republican Senate leaders pledged to help them identify $250 million in cuts to Missouri's federal stimulus funds. But that deal fizzled because other Republican and Democratic senators refused to go along.
The Senate Appropriations Committee declined Monday to make all the cuts sought by the four Republicans -- Brian Nieves of Washington, Jim Lembke of St. Louis, Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph and Will Kraus of Lee's Summit.
On Tuesday, the full Senate defeated an amendment that would have eliminated $6.3 million of stimulus money to expand high-speed Internet in rural areas. The senators, who had declared the rural Internet vote to be a test case, then began reading from the Bible, calculating their ages and discussing their favorite movies as most of their colleagues left the chamber to avoid listening to them.
"House Bill 18 will be discussed for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours. That's a guarantee," Nieves declared.
Lawmakers face a Friday deadline established by the state Constitution to give final approval to the state's budget. But most of the proposed $23 billion plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is incomplete.
Among the other incomplete items is House Bill 18, which would allow stimulus money that has gone unspent in the current budget to be carried over to the next fiscal year. Without reauthorization, the money couldn't be spent after June 30.
"Somebody has got to say, 'The federal government is spending too much money and we've got to stop it,"' Schaaf said.
The four senators took some credit for the removal Monday of $114 million of federal stimulus money from the Missouri budget bill. But most of that money was not actually cut. Rather, it was eliminated from the 2012 budget bill because it being spent already in 2011, said Linda Luebbering, the budget director for Gov. Jay Nixon.
The filibustering senators said they would relent if the chamber agreed to trim slightly less than $40 million from the stimulus reauthorization bill that has been allocated to projects but is not yet under contract.
The largest chunk would provide $13.8 million in grants and loans for energy efficiency projects. Also targeted is $10.2 million for public safety projects, such as child safety programs and anti-methamphetamine efforts. Smaller amounts would go to such things as worker training programs and drug-treatment programs.
However, it appeared that a majority of senators preferred to keep the federal stimulus money available for Missouri projects.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, told the filibustering senators that cutting the federal funds simply would be denying money to Missouri projects while making little impact on federal spending.
"You're trying to solve a problem as a state senator that we cannot control, that's coming out of Washington, D.C," Schaefer said.
Online Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)