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STATE TAXPAYERS COULD SOON BE ON THE HOOK FOR BOONDOGGLE

Last September this website weighed in against the proposed Bull Street redevelopment in downtown Columbia, S.C. – a project which was pushed through city government by “Mayorhood” Steve Benjamin (against the advice of Columbia, S.C. attorneys).

We have no problem with the project, we just don’t think taxpayers should ever be on the hook for private development deals – especially not to the tune of $71 million.¬†And especially not when the city’s own attorneys concluded the deal exposed the city “to significant legal and financial risks.”

More recently, we objected to the costly inclusion of a baseball stadium into the development plan – arguing it placed further unnecessary strain on the city’s debt burden.

The latest bombshell in this rapidly expanding boondoggle? A $26.6 million bailout from state government – which was approved this week by the S.C. House Ways and Means committee and which is expected to receive a vote in the House later this month.

The “Bull Street bailout” would come via the expansion of an existing tax credit for the restoration of abandoned buildings, but all you need to know as a taxpayer is it will “reduce (state) revenue by an estimated $13,300,000 in FY2014-15 and by an estimated $13,300,000 in FY2015-16.”

In fact here’s a recent memo obtained from city government detailing the scam.

Bottom line? This bill would give the Bull Street developer $26.6 million in tax breaks over the next two years … money you better believe state government will be taking out of your back pocket.

Picking winners and losers, in other words … and unless you’re the developer, you’re one of the losers.

We categorically reject this boondoggle and call on members of the S.C. House of Representatives to do the same.

South Carolina taxpayers should not be forced to invest in local developments like this under any circumstances … but particularly not in this economy. And particularly not in light of the legitimate concerns associated with this deal.