The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Richland County Restaurant Tax Subsidizing Stealth Research Authority

with 2 comments

As The Nerve reported earlier this week, the Legislature recently passed a measure forcing Richland County taxpayers to continue to pay for a botched land deal that was supposed to bring a new farmer’s market to Pineview Road.

In essence, the joint resolution (S 1190) allows the county to use local hospitality tax revenue to pay for the land. The revenue is derived from a 2 percent tax on all prepared meals and beverages sold in Richland County. The tax went into effect on October 1, 2003.

According to long-standing state law, such tax revenue is only to be used on tourism-related endeavors—the Columbia Museum of Art, Riverbanks Zoo and the EdVenture Museum all benefit from the tax.  But under the joint resolution passed by the Legislature, these tax dollars will be going to pay for land now under control of the S.C. Research Authority (SCRA).

A deal between the county and the state ceded 109 acres of the tract to SCRA while the county kept about 85 acres. But whatever SCRA is—they claim not even to be a state agency—their work certainly has nothing to do with tourism.

At best, SCRA can be described as a research and development firm with a public mission. Started with seed capital/land paid for by state taxpayers, the authority’s work is subject to legislative direction, as evinced by a 2005 law requiring SCRA to establish 3 (failing) “Innovation Centers.”

As the governor’s veto of S 1190 argued, a better solution would be to require SCRA to pay for the land it now owns. In any case, such failed deals show why government should stay out of the economic development/tourism business. They also demonstrate why taxpayers must demand total transparency and accountability regarding economic incentives deals – whether related to farmer’s markets, retail developments or billion-dollar aircraft manufacturers.


Written by Jameson Taylor

July 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SC Policy Council. SC Policy Council said: Richland County restaurant taxes pay for botched land deal. […]

  2. […] Richland County Restaurant Tax Subsidizing Stealth Research … […]

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