Panthers’ Handout: A GOP Win?

Republicans celebrate … but should they?

South Carolina governor Henry McMaster is preparing to sign a bill that will give the billionaire owner of the National Football League (NFL)’s Carolina Panthers tens of millions of dollars worth of tax breaks in exchange for moving the team’s practice facility to Rock Hill, S.C.

And no, these breaks (which could total as much as $115 million over the coming decade) are not available to the vast majority of small businesses in the Palmetto State … which makes this an unfair crony capitalist handout from our perspective.

Meanwhile, taxpayers will shell out another $40 million for a Panthers interchange on Interstate 77 … at a time when critical infrastructure needs are not being met elsewhere in the state.

Any of this make sense? Of course not … which is why we opposed this handout from the beginning.

Astoundingly, this is the big “win” McMaster and Republican leaders in the S.C. General Assembly are touting as their signature accomplishment of the 2019 legislative session … which did nothing but perpetuate the costly, chronic negligence of our state’s leaders.

McMaster and his department of commerce have claimed the Panthers’ handout will create 5,715 new jobs and have an economic impact of more than $3.8 billion. However, another estimate – commissioned by Democratic state senator Dick Harpootlian – revealed the project would only create around 200 jobs and have a much smaller economic impact.

Harpootlian’s advocacy on this issue has been refreshing. Not only did he peel back the fiction associated with government’s pie-in-the-sky projections, he addressed the underlying unfairness associated with such deals.

(Click to view)

(Via: Provided)

“With respect to economic incentive deals more broadly, this is our opportunity to make an important choice about the proper role of government,” Harpootlian (above) said during an impassioned floor speech earlier this month. “Do we believe our role is creating the conditions of economic success – an even playing field where all businesses succeed or fail on their own merit? Or is our role to pick winners and losers- to put the considerable weight of the state and the public’s money behind one market participant? In my view, that is the choice we have here.”

Indeed … and South Carolina continues to choose poorly.

Harpootlian pulled no punches during the Panthers’ debate … calling out “conservatives” and “liberals” alike for their support of such corporate welfare.

“To my conservative friends on record extolling the virtues of the marketplace and the folly of picking winners and losers: What will you tell your constituents about this massive piece of corporate welfare to benefit a single corporation?” he asked. “And to my liberal friends concerned about rising inequality: what will you tell your constituents about why one billionaire received a $40 million infrastructure project and $115 million in tax giveaways when so many of our most vulnerable citizens’ needs remain unaddressed?”

Indeed …

Yet while Harpootlian “lost” this battle, we believe he is well on his way to winning the war over the hundreds of millions of dollars in crony capitalist subsidies doled out by the state each year.

By insisting upon transparency – and challenging false assumptions – he has done the taxpayers of this state a great service.

Furthermore, we believe McMaster – who waved the Panthers’ pompoms in promoting this deal – is unlikely to gain much in the way of political capital now that he has “won” the battle for these subsidies.

In fact, we believe his advocacy on behalf of a liberal billionaire presents a made-to-order opportunity for his political rivals …




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Banner: Columbia SC Photographers Travis Bell

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