A $2 million earmark for a university in Cape Girardeau included in Missouri's $24 billion budget has effectively derailed the state Senate.
House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Perryville Republican, wants the money added to the budget of Southeast Missouri State University. He points out that the school has the second lowest funding-to-student ratio among state universities and argues that he's simply trying to fix the inequity.
But Sen. Jason Crowell, a Cape Girardeau Republican, has demanded the funding be removed.
Southeast Missouri State shouldn't be the only public university that gets an increase in funding during a difficult budget year, Crowell said. And until the issue is resolved, he said he will block votes on every other bill for the remaining week and a half of the legislative session. That includes the state budget, which must be passed and sent to Gov. Jay Nixon by Friday.
"I know how to tie up the floor, and I'll do it," Crowell said.
He accused Tilley of only pushing for the funding because he'll be a lobbyist for the university when his legislative career ends this year.
Tilley called Crowell's accusations a lie. Both lawmakers are alums of Southeast Missouri State.
On Monday, Crowell helped block a vote on a bill creating a funding stream for Missouri's veterans' nursing homes. House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, said the budget negotiations can't move forward unless the veterans bill passes.
After 11 hours of debate, the Senate adjourned at 3 a.m. Tuesday without voting on the veterans bill. They returned Tuesday afternoon only to adjourn again until today.
Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, a Dexter Republican, said he doesn't have enough votes to end a Crowell filibuster, and besides -- he would prefer to avoid that path.
He said he doesn't oppose the additional funding for Southeast Missouri State, but added that he isn't sure it should be handled this way.
The university funding isn't the only issue that could potentially delay the budget process.
Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Chesterfield Republican, has demanded the state end all funding for the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Cunningham said the organization is a training ground for Democrats.
She originally said she would help block votes on the budget if the provision is not passed, but late Monday night appeared to concede that the idea faces long odds.
Crowell has said he will assist any fellow senators who feel the promises made to them by Republican leadership in order to pass the budget out of the Senate are not being kept.
"We have some issues that need to be resolved in the Senate before we move forward, and they're going to be resolved one way or the other," he said.