Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, proposed that the state refund half of its 2006 surplus, saying returning the money to state residents would benefit both Missouri families and the economy.
"We don't need the surplus," said Callahan, who initially proposed refunding $200 million. "It's theirs, not ours."
Callahan attached the amendment to a bill appropriating funds for the Revenue and Transportation departments. Although the Senate denied the amendment with a 28 to 5 vote, it unanimously approved the bill.
Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, said he didn't like calling the additional funds a "surplus," and instead referred to them as a deficit.
Shoemyer said the state has failed to spend the money on programs senior citizens, public education and health care. He said there are still Missourians waiting for the state to return their health care coverage after the state cuts in 2005.
"I will not allow this to be called a surplus of dollars," Shoemyer said. "It is a deficit of investment, it is a deficit of compassion and it's a deficit of forward looking and putting ourselves in a position in a state to be great."
Other senators said the state should hold onto the money for a "rainy day" fund of sorts.
Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles County, chairs the Appropriations Committee. He said the committee decided it would be wise to hold onto the surplus, "given the uncertainty of the coming years."
But Callahan remained steadfast in his attempt to refund the money. He said that since the state has offered to provide tax exemptions for industries and businesses -- including ethanol plants and large-scale animal farms -- it should be willing to provide a similar assistance to Missouri citizens.
"Let's return it to the taxpayers," Callahan said. "They should be trusted to spend the money."