JEFFERSON CITY - Supporters of a bill that would provide state subsidy for a new ballpark for the St. Louis Cardinals fended off an attempt to gut it Tuesday in the Missouri Senate, but couldn't bring it to a vote.
State funding for stadiums and economic development to the tune of $644 million was debated for almost nine hours, but no vote was taken and the bill now must wait until Thursday.
The complicated bill would provide state subsidy to build the new Cardinals' ballpark, allow St. Louis' Savvis Center arena to keep some of the state tax revenue it generates, rehab the stadiums of Kansas City's Chiefs and Royals as part of a bistate cultural taxing district there, and build convention centers in Springfield and Branson.
Senate President pro tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, sponsors the bill, and tried to put aside divisions within the Senate.
"The issue for us is: Does this project make sense for Missouri?" he said. "This is my vision for one Missouri."
Kinder said his bill is an attempt to work toward the revitalization of downtown St. Louis, while preventing the state's baseball teams and the taxes they generate from leaving the state.
Much of Tuesday's debate included questions directed to Kinder about his priorities.
Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, said that if Kinder's bill passes, the state will spend about $32 million each year on stadium issues.
"Is that more important than education?" she asked Kinder.
"There will always be disadvantaged people who you can point to," Kinder said, but emphasized that the state cannot afford to lose the tax revenue that baseball teams bring to the state. He also repeated many times that the projects he supports are about economic development.
Steelman reiterated her view that the state would be better off spending money on education, while Kinder countered that the state must spend money on economic development in order to increase its tax revenue and give people jobs.
Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, said his greatest regret was voting against the state subsidy of the Edward Jones Dome (formerly the TWA Dome) in St. Louis 10 years ago. He said he will support this ballpark bill.
Jacob said the question on this bill is not whether he will vote for it, but rather whether there are senators willing to filibuster it.
Filibustering in the Missouri Senate can be done by any senator by just continuing to speak and not allowing another senator to speak. If this goes on for long enough, other senators will consent to lay the bill aside so that the Senate can move on to other business.
Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, tried to pass several amendments to the bill, but none passed.
When asked if he would filibuster the bill if he couldn't succeed in amending it, Goode grinned and replied, "Not necessarily."
A variety of amendments failed, including sending money to the St. Charles Family Arena, removing Savvis Center from the bill, increasing the penalty the Cardinals would pay if they are sold, making the state's expenditure contingent upon state employees getting a pay raise, and one that would return money to the state if Major League Baseball adopts a new revenue sharing plan.
Kinder said the bill will come up for debate again on Thursday. With many bills left to consider in the last three weeks of session, the Senate will be in session this Friday. If the Senate fails to approve the stadium bill Thursday, Kinder said he will bring it up Friday. The state Constitution mandates that legislative session end May 17.
If the Senate passes it, the House must debate and pass it as well. House Speaker Jim Kreider has said he is waiting for the Senate to pass its bill before the House will debate it. Gov. Bob Holden has pledged his support.