JEFFERSON CITY - For the third consecutive day, opponents of a tax deduction for parents who send their children to private or parochial high schools stalled debate on a $71 million omnibus Senate tax-cut bill.
Sen. Jerry Howard, D-Dexter, led a filibuster that prevented any votes from being taken. Howard called the deduction unfair and said he would rather see a more broad-based tax cut.
"We're likely to end up with a targeted tax that's not going to benefit all the citizens across the state," he said.
Howard said he is also concerned about hurting public education by giving tax breaks to support private schools.
Comments often went off the subject during the three-hour filibuster. At one point, Howard and Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, talked about what food they would like to eat for lunch.
Opponents of the bill frequently used quorum calls to shut down the Senate. Sergeant-at-Arms Lester Marcum was constantly running around trying to haul absent members into the chamber to get the necessary 18 senators on the floor.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Ted House, D-St. Charles, said public schools are "at the heart and soul of the community" and must be protected. House, who called the erosion of support for Missouri's public schools frightening, said money should be used to fix the public schools, not help dismantle them.
"Public education is the most important thing we do," House said. "Let's take the system we've got and make it better."
The Missouri Catholic Conference is one of the major forces pushing for the deduction. Senate supporters, led by Catholic Sen. Harry Wiggins, D-Kansas City, have the votes to get it approved but can't proceed to a vote.
Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, chastised those senators who were delaying the bill.
"They refuse to accept the will of the majority," Kinder said. "They won't take 'no' for an answer."
Following adjournment Thursday, Wiggins expressed optimism he could work with senators over the weekend in hopes of getting the bill passed next week.
Senate Majority Leader Ed Quick, D-Liberty, an opponent of the deduction, wasn't so optimistic.
"If we do go to this on Monday, I suggest you all bring pajamas," he told reporters.
Quick said he hoped weekend negotiations would lead to some softening of positions. "I'd like to reach a consensus," he said. "I'd like to vote this up or down."