Throughout Missouriís history, state funds are more likely to be spent on rural programs rather than urban initiatives. Transportation is a good example. Hundreds of millions for rural highways, virtually nothing for public transit in St. Louis or Kansas City.
One of the few exceptions to this pro-rural pattern is the historic preservation tax credit. Passed by the Missouri General Assembly in 1997, this program provides a twenty-five percent credit against state taxes for rehabilitating older structures. When combined with a twenty percent federal tax credit enacted in 1976, it means that almost half the cost of revitalizing homes and commercial buildings in historic neighborhoods like Soulard and Lafayette Square are covered. Remember, these are tax credits ó a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal and state taxes owed ó not tax deductions which for the state portion would only yield six cents on the dollar.
Although historic buildings throughout Missouri are eligible for the credit, St. Louis developers have been the most aggressive in seeking and obtaining these funds. In particular, this program has been a critical element in the revitalization of Downtown St. Louis, making the numbers work so that the development is financially viable.
So it should it come as no surprise that some rural legislators are now depicting the program as a backdoor raid on the state treasury. There are precious few state tax dollars directly aiding Missouriís central cities. They need to be protected and enhanced, not capped or eliminated.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.