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Proposed SC Incentives For Panthers Move Still In Legislative Limbo

Carolina Panthers' Bank of America Stadium
Carolina Panthers

Legislation that would create economic incentives designed to help coax the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters across the state line remains stalled in the South Carolina Senate. And, the proposal has stirred calls for a review of state incentives for other businesses that have relocated to South Carolina over the past decade.  

Last month, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, other state officials and legislative leaders unveiled a proposal to lure the Panthers’ business operations from Charlotte to York County. Under the proposal, the Panthers would also build a new practice facility, in a move that would rely on about $115 million in state incentives.

The South Carolina House approved legislation to enable such incentives for the Panthers late last month. But earlier this month, the deal hit a snag.  State Senator Dick Harpootlian, a Democrat from Columbia, questioned the state’s estimates of the how much economic impact a Panthers’ move would have.

Harpootlian hired a former state commerce department economist who concluded that the state overestimated the potential impact by at least $2.7 million over 15 years. The report prepared for Harpootlian also projects the move would likely create just over 200 jobs in South Carolina – not the thousands projected by state Commerce officials in the proposal.

On Friday, Harpootlian and a bipartisan group of nine other state senators introduced a new twist to the current debate over incentives as a business recruiting tool in South Carolina. The lawmakers signed a letter asking legislative auditors to analyze incentive deals with businesses over the past 10 years. 

Harpootlian said the audit request won’t hold up a Senate vote on the recently-proposed financial breaks for the Panthers. But in a letter to Governor McMaster last week, Harpootlian said he could not vote on using taxpayer money to benefit a private corporation without “a crystal-clear understanding of the merits of the deal.” It’s still unclear when that vote might take place.