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.