The Senate's Fat Tuesday debate on how to trim the fat lasted well into the evening for the first time this year. --> Partisan battling over tax cuts starts fast and furious
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Partisan battling over tax cuts starts fast and furious

February 16, 1999
By: Joe Stange
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Partisan bickering Tuesday blocked a Senate Democratic leadership plan to advance the governor's nearly $200-million tax-cut package.

The Senate's Fat Tuesday debate on how to trim the fat lasted well into the evening for the first time this year.

Already carrying one of the lightest tax burdens in the nation, the governor proposes Missouri would get more tax relief next year under the administration's package sponsored by Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia.

But Republicans in the Senate demanded cuts far deeper than those proposed by the Democratic governor and legislative leadership. Some Democrats, on the other hand, accuse Republicans of motives more Machiavellian than just seeking a bigger cut.

"We expected them to try to obstruct our efforts," said Brad Ketcher, Gov. Mel Carnahan's chief of staff, as the Senate went into it's first evening session of the year.

The Democratic attempt to move their plan of choice, sponsored by Jacob, was frustrated by repeated Republican attempts to beef it up with corporate tax cuts. The lack of bipartisanship evidenced itself in a series of party-line votes throughout the day.

Senate President Pro-Tem Ed Quick, D-Kansas City, said the plan would not reappear in the Senate chamber until the Republicans "give us an indication that we'll be able to pass a feasible tax cut."

Republicans say that corporations, because they pay a larger share of taxes in Missouri, should get a larger share of cuts crafted by the General Assembly.

Jacob and other Democrats say that cuts the GOP wants to give would hurt too many state programs, and that taxes to shrink more uniformly.

"Lets help everybody in the state equally," Jacob said. "Not $25 million for a Fortune 500 company. ... How can I go home and tell my constituents that I have to help out Fortune 500 companies?"

The Democrats are pushing for about $190 million in cuts next year, most of it through a straightforward $2,100 per person income-tax deduction. The $190-million figure coincides with the surplus expected by the Office of Administration.

The GOP is asking for twice that, as much as $380 million in cuts. They have suggested a repeal of the corporate franchise tax and full income tax deductibility for corporations, as well as dozens of more specific cuts.

Senate Republican Leader Steve Ehlmann said OA's numbers have been wrong by about 100 percent every year for the past few years, and that should justify the $380 million. He said his party was willing to listen to more reasonable offers from the Democrats.

But Jacob and Quick both said Tuesday night they've been willing to negotiate from the beginning -- if only the Republicans could form a cohesive position instead of 16 different ones.

"We can't sit down and talk with each senator," Jacob said.