As the legislative session ground to its end last spring, Jeff Smith threatened to filibuster the entire budget in the State Senate if Republicans insisted on cutting funds for tax credits for the rehabbing of historic buildings. He prevailed in protecting the program, particularly the smaller projects that make up the bulk of the program. Historic tax credits have helped revitalize downtown St. Louis and have driven $4 billion in rehabbing over the last decade. Keeping most of the program intact was one of several accomplishments Smith could take pride in.
But today, he was sentenced to a year in prison. Rep. Steve Brown, who wore a wire to help get the evidence to convict Smith of lying to the FBI, was given two years probation and a fine. And Nick Adams, who worked on Smith’s campaign against Russ Carnahan in 2004 and later as Brown’s campaign manager, was given two years probation and a $5,000 fine.
Anyway, Jeff Smith is gone from the Senate. His replacement, Joe Keaveny, doesn’t hold any particular promise for fighting for his district. That is sad. On the historic tax credit issue alone, Smith will be missed:
The tax credits have other backers in Jefferson City, and a strong lobby of developers and urban leaders who support them. But it’s unclear who will take the reins in the Legislature if there’s a move again next year to cut them further.
Jeff Smith would have accomplished more if he had stayed, if he hadn’t blown it. He had a passion about working for good causes. His statement after the sentencing implies that he believes he will put that energy to use again: “‘This has been a difficult chapter in my life. It will not be the last and it will … not be the defining one.'”
I hope so.