There are things we believe government should do: Roads, bridges, cops, courts and providing for a means-tested, market-based social safety net – one that includes an education component (again, administered through a marketplace).
Of course, there are many more things government should not do … like subsidizing submarines from bygone eras. Or paying for the museums that house these submarines.
Unfortunately, South Carolina taxpayers continue to find themselves on the hook for precisely such expenses – most notably the rampant graft and corruption related to the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.
Over the past two decades, tens of millions of tax dollars have flowed into the recovery and restoration of this Confederate submarine – which was raised from the floor of Charleston harbor on August 8, 2000. Millions more have been spent on related Confederate memorabilia – and millions more on a government-run “Restoration Institute” run under the auspices of Clemson University.
An equally notorious boondoggle is the Patriots Point Development Authority, a state agency responsible for running a money-losing maritime museum on the banks of the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant, S.C. built around the decommissioned USS Yorktown (CV-10) aircraft carrier.
This totally superfluous entity is slated to receive $13.8 million in public money this year, according to the latest version of the fiscal year 2019-2020 state budget. And that total doesn’t include another $2.7 million being spent by state taxpayers to sink one of its attractions – the USS Clamagore (SS-343) submarine.
The sub – which would have otherwise required $7 million in repairs – is being sunk off the South Carolina coast where it will form part of an artificial reef.
Do we support sinking the Clamagore? Absolutely. The state should have done it decades ago.
But the bigger issue is Patriots Point – an entity the state should have never started funding in the first place.
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Nor does it include an $8 million loan the agency received nearly a decade ago to refurbish another one of its attractions, the World War II-era destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724). Patriots Point is supposed to begin repaying that loan this year, but we will believe it when we see it.
In addition to these expenses, Patriots Point was also the epicenter of a failed (and costly) bid to bring a national Medal of Honor museum to Mount Pleasant – a project that officially went bust back in December.
In addition to a $5 million direct appropriation from the state, a prime piece of government real estate was signed over to the museum foundation for only $1.00 per year. Not surprisingly, this news outlet – which was the first to report on the museum’s troubles in February of 2017 – adamantly opposed any government involvement with the project.
“The goal of this museum must be pursued exclusively with private money,” we wrote at the time. “And not only that, museum organizers must pay fair market value for the land they are currently being given by the state.”
Thankfully, lawmakers are supposed to recover the $5 million museum appropriation during the coming budget year. And they had the good sense to make sure this money is appropriated elsewhere in the budget – away from Patriots Point.
Still … this agency remains a totally unnecessary drain on taxpayers.
To be clear: We love Patriots Point. It is one of our favorite historical sites and we believe it has tremendous potential as a tourist attraction. But it has utterly and completely failed to achieve its potential under state ownership/ management.
And now – despite the claims of its numerous well-heeled lobbyists at the S.C. State House – the cord must be cut once and for all.
“South Carolina has critical needs,” we wrote more than two years ago in addressing this agency. “Its leaders cannot afford to blow money or waste valuable assets on projects that may never come to pass – projects which should never have been funded by taxpayers in the first place.”
As much as we like Patriots Point, it should have never received a dime of funding from taxpayers … ever. And lawmakers need to turn its spigot off permanently moving forward.
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