Latest on hall of fame spending in the state budget

Despite the fact that operations at the Golf Hall of Fame in Augusta has been closed for a couple years now, the state continues to pay for the misguided venture. Now some legislators want to sell the property of the monument to government waste to the city for $1:

In the midst of a budget crisis, state government will spend almost $500,000 this year to continue paying off a monument to golf that was never built.

Now two Georgia senators want the state to give the 17-acre Golf Hall of Fame property to the city of Augusta for $1, even though state taxpayers will be paying that $500,000 in debt service until April 2015.

Other lawmakers denounce the idea and say it’s frustrating that the state has to continue paying off bonds on the vacant, weedy land at a time when they are furloughing teachers and cutting public health programs.
[…]
Some Augusta leaders, including Mayor Deke Copenhaver, are hoping the hall property can be re-developed as an entertainment center, complete with a baseball park for the city’s minor-league team. Copenhaver and the team’s co-owner, baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., have talked with Perdue about the plans.

Davis said he filed his bill to “get the conversation started” about what to do with the property. He said not everyone is behind the downtown baseball stadium proposal. “You’ve got to have all the key stakeholders at the table,” he said. “We’ve got to do something, and that’s what I’m committed to.”

Bert Brantley, the governor’s spokesman, said it would be illegal for the state to sell the Golf Hall of Fame property for $1. That would be a gift, which is unconstitutional. What price the state can get for the property, especially in this down economy, is unclear. The longer the site sits unsold and unused, the longer taxpayers will keep paying for it. State taxpayers are still on the hook for $2.85 million in debt service.

Of course, the state is planning on putting $10 million towards the new College Football Hall of Fame. Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, tells the AJC:

“If you ask anybody to prioritize the core functions of government, I don’t think hall of fames would make anybody’s top 10,” he said. “Many would argue, as we would, that it’s very questionable whether the state should be involved in this.”

If you look at recent funding of the state’s various halls of fame, the only real economic impact has been the state’s subsidies.

For example, from FY 2004 to FY 2008 the Music Hall of Fame, which will receive $539,311 in FY 2011 if Gov. Sonny Perdue has his way (FY 2011 budget, page 17), lost $272,532 despite receiving almost $4 million in subsidies. Over the same period, the Sports Hall of Fame received $3.7 million in subsidies, but lost $171,301. However, it will receive another $471,684 in subsidies from the state in FY 2011.

There are some folks that believe government should provide these things, however, it’s irresponsible for legislators to continue to fund these ventures that could reasonably and more efficiently be provided by private interests.

18 comments

  1. ByteMe says:

    There are many good reasons not to want government to fund these little “adventures in tourism”, but money doesn’t appear to be one of them. Each of them appears to provide economic and “quality of life” benefits in excess of the amount of money being spent on it (follow the links to see that).

    Jason’s really trying to mask one of the Libertarian creeds — that government should not exist as an expression of the collective desires of the governed — in a financial argument that doesn’t hold water. It’s like saying “state parks don’t make enough money to cover their expenses, so parks shouldn’t be a function of government.” It’s argument by distraction.

    If he had stuck to just having the opinion that government shouldn’t be in the entertainment business even if there’s an economic benefit to the state, then he has a cleaner case to make independent of financial details that might conflict with his thesis.

        • Jason Pye says:

          Look, I am a libertarian. I believe government has a very limited and defined purpose. Those beliefs are going to come out in what I write. I’m not going suppress it to make people happy.

          The financial argument does hold water, by the way, simply because the basis for these projects are for the economic benefit they bring. As we see, there is no real economic benefit based on the investment the state is putting into these wasteful projects.

          Just because you don’t accept the argument doesn’t mean it’s not valid.

          • ByteMe says:

            You really should re-read what I wrote without the chip on your shoulder. I didn’t say you shouldn’t inform your arguments with your beliefs. I said you can make a better case if you divorce it from the financial argument.

            If you look at the table in your own links, for example, you could see that the SAM Shortline (I had to look it up to see what it was) has had a $1.6 million economic impact for a mere $370K of state funds in 2008. That’s a fantastic return for any business investment.

            In fact, if the point of government investments in businesses is to return an incredible economic impact, let’s have the state buy up Coke, Inc.

            That’s ludicrous, but also the logical extension of the argument you tried to make in your posting that government actions should have a good financial component.

            Instead, you have a better case to make that government shouldn’t be in the entertainment and tourism (Go Fish!) business. And I’d agree with that in many cases… regardless of the financial component.

            • Jason Pye says:

              If you limit it to just the state’s investment, I’d agree, but the funds the state puts in plus the revenue the museum brings in is half the economic impact. Also, economic impact estimates are almost always overstated.

              Both arguments were made in the post.

              As far as a chip on my shoulder, look, I’m not the one that talks down to people here like you do.

              • ByteMe says:

                but the funds the state puts in plus the revenue the museum brings in is half the economic impact. Also, economic impact estimates are almost always overstated.

                Then bring some facts to the table showing that! Until then, it’s just your assumption without a basis.

                As far as a chip on my shoulder, look, I’m not the one that talks down to people here like you do.

                Uh huh. So you’re saying you’re not prickly when confronted on your arguments? Nahhhhhhh…..

                • Jason Pye says:

                  In FY 2008, they spent over $1.3 million ($371,964 from the state and $592,862 in other revenues). They lost $364,761. So the economic benefit is minimal.

                  I am to you because of the way you do it. You want to have civil discourse? I welcome that, but treat people with some respect.

                  • B Balz says:

                    Time out, lads. As two of my favorite contributors, don’t get too caught up in screen wars.

                    As an outside observer, I can’t say I have ever seen either of y’all being disrespectful to each other or anyone else.

                    None of this is real, anyway, riiiiggght?

                  • ByteMe says:

                    And yet over the 4-year period they lost LESS than that, so the loss was mostly incurred in the economic disaster that was 2008 (or at least, that’s what I can infer from the limited set of numbers). So a reasonable assumption is that in most years it was not losing significant money relative to its economic impact on the areas served by the train.

                    But it still comes back to it being a terrible argument that leaves open the possibility that some investments in entertainment and tourism are better for government than others and I doubt that’s where you really want to go with that.

                    You are prickly to other people as well, Jason. You can’t deny what everyone can see.

                    • Jason Pye says:

                      The argument is a valid argument and it was presented in this case with the responsibilities of government.

                      As far as a economic impacts and cost benefit, see this. I’ll have to dig up the article.

                • Jason Pye says:

                  Then bring some facts to the table showing that! Until then, it’s just your assumption without a basis.

                  I’ll have to find the specific study/article I read, but government analysis of projects, ventures or even entitlements often turn out to be false or optimistic.

                  • ByteMe says:

                    I’d be glad to read it. My assumption is that the impact is overstated as well, just because it’s hard to quantify the multiplier effect.

  2. Harry says:

    Investing a few million of taxpayer funds into the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta would yield a strong positive multiplier effect on the economy. That’s the only one that makes sense to me. In regard to subsidizing a golf museum or putting a Billion dollars of taxpayer funds or guarantees into a new Falcons Dome….forget it.

  3. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    Forgive my ignorance (I say that a lot by the way 😉 ), but the Golf Hall of Fame in Augusta is actually a National/International Hall of Fame? I thought it was just a GA Hall of Fame. If so, why don’t sponsors and the PGA pick up most of the bill for maintaining it? After all, I seriously doubt that the state of Ohio is footing the bill for supporting the NFL Hall of Fame.

  4. kcordell says:

    There is already a “Golf Hall of Fame” in St. Augustine, Fl. I don’t know how it’s paid for. As I understand it the entire history of golf is represented not just Ga. golfers.

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