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Morning headlines: Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An earthquake hit southeast Missouri at 4 a.m. this morning. The U.S. Geological Survey was centered about five miles from East Prairie, Mo.
(USGS website)
An earthquake hit southeast Missouri at 4 a.m. this morning. The U.S. Geological Survey was centered about five miles from East Prairie, Mo.

Earthquake hits southeast Missouri

Only minor damage is reported after an earthquake centered in southeast Missouri shook at least nine states.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude 4.0 earthquake was centered near the town of East Prairie, Mo. Geological Survey geophysicist Amy Vaughan says several people in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee reported being awakened by the quake that happened at 3:58 a.m. A few residents of North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Georgia also felt it.

East Prairie City Administrator Lonnie Thurmond says the shaking lasted about seven seconds. Vaughan says he's heard reports of cracks in sidewalks and walls, some broken windows, and minor household damage such as rattled shelves and things falling from cabinets.

Proposal would boost funding to veterans' home by cutting amount of state lottery prizes

Missouri veterans groups are praising a plan to boost funding for state-operated veterans' homes by cutting the amount of money available for state lottery prizes.

The legislation would affect funds from different sources and for different programs. It would cut lottery prize funds by about 3.5 percent and put the money toward early childhood education programs that currently get funds from the Missouri Gaming Commission. Gaming Commission money that now goes for early childhood education would be used instead to increase funding for veterans' homes and for certain Missouri National Guard benefits.

A fiscal estimate included with the legislation says cutting the amount of available prize money could hurt sales of state lottery tickets.

Ill. Governor's budget proposal to include call for closing tax loopholes

Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal will include a call for closing unneeded tax loopholes as a way of generating cash to pay off Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson told The Associated Press yesterday that the governor envisions paying off the bills gradually. Illinois owes billions of dollars to businesses and community groups that work for the state.

Anderson says getting rid of loopholes that don't contribute to economic growth also would pay for new tax breaks the governor wants - ending natural gas taxes, credits for families with children and businesses that hire veterans. Anderson said education will get more money in the proposal Quinn will present tomorrow. He wants to boost education by about $90 million, or about 1 percent.