News & ToursMarch 19, 2010

A government bailout of a golf tournament?

Anytime a government commits taxpayer dollars to golf it is guaranteed to stoke a controversy, for, strange as it seems, not everyone is into golf.

South Carolina is the latest state on the threshold of dipping into public coffers on behalf of a game many perceive to be elitist. Its House of Representatives has sent a $5 billion budget to the state senate that includes a $10 million loan to keep the Heritage afloat in the event the tournament does not find a sponsor to replace Verizon in 2011. The loan would come from the state's insurance reserve fund.

"In a budget year like this, they raided the insurance trust fund, a fund that's meant to protect consumers after hurricanes and natural disasters, to lend money to a golf tournament," Representative Nikki Haley, a Republican and candidate for governor, told the State newspaper. "That is so far removed from what our taxpayers want."

Representative Richard Chalk, a Republican who represents Hilton Head, site of the Verizon Heritage, is among those who voted for the loan. "This is a proven money-maker for the state of South Carolina," he told the newspaper.

Of the five comments the State's story generated, none supported the loan. One poster wrote: "You're [sic] argument is right up there with the stimulus bill 'saving' hundreds of thousands of jobs. Riiight. I hope your buddies at Harbor [sic] Town do you right, Mr. Chalk. You sure are carrying their water on this one."

A story on the website for WLTX, a television station in Columbia, S.C., had six pages of comments that overwhelmingly disapproved of the loan.

The $5 billion budget represents a cut of $2 billion from two years ago. State agencies are expected to have to eliminate jobs to meet the budget.

-- John Strege

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