Carolina Panthers Owner David Tepper, has a reported net worth of $11.6 billion. However, despite that, the South Carolina Senate has decided to approve a large package of tax breaks to help the Panthers move their headquarters and practice facilities to South Carolina.
According to the State newspaper, “South Carolina likely will offer the Carolina Panthers $115 million in tax breaks to move the Charlotte-based NFL team’s headquarters and practice facilities across the N.C. border and to Rock Hill.”
Some South Carolina lawmakers had reportedly expressed skepticism over extending the tax breaks to a team owned by one of the richest men in the world, but those voices of dissent did not win the debate.
According to NBC Sports:
The tax discounts package passed 27-15 Thursday, after days of debate about providing a free lunch of multi-billionaire owner David Tepper.
The bill needs final approval by the South Carolina House, but they approved their version of the bill in March.
Tepper was eager to work with South Carolina officials, and joined Gov. Henry McMaster’s inaugural committee. But he was able to see the measure pass, a day after threatening to keep the practice facility in Charlotte (which he doesn’t really have room to do near their downtown Charlotte stadium).
The Panthers plan to build practice fields and an indoor facility at the new complex, along with related development including hotels and a sports medicine complex.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster tweeted about the deal:
This vote sends a resounding message to the world that South Carolina is committed to creating the most competitive business environment in the world so that South Carolinians can benefit from jobs created by great organizations like the @Panthers. #SCStrong #KeepPounding https://t.co/Wr8W8QJsFk
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) May 9, 2019
However, the deal was not universally praised. Particularly among those who questioned whether the move would really benefit South Carolinians the way its proponents claimed it would.
Democrat Senator Dick Harpootlian, who blocked a vote on the bill in order to make the state Commerce Department release its cost-benefit analysis of the deal, sounded alarms as he urged the Senate to reject the deal.
“I’ve come to the troubling conclusion that the Panthers’ proposal is precisely as ill-defined and unvetted as has been represented to us and that it rests on a series of flawed assumptions,” he said from the Senate floor.
Harpootlian asked, “free market-loving Republican senators how they would explain to their constituents ‘this massive piece of corporate welfare to benefit a single corporation and its billionaire owner.’
“He asked his fellow Democrats how they plan to explain ‘why one billionaire received a $40 million infrastructure project and $115 million in tax giveaways when so many of our most vulnerable citizens’ needs remain unaddressed.'”
“Plans for the project also include a new $40 million interchange on Interstate 77 to provide easy access to the complex in a traffic-congested area. It is estimated the federal government would pay about $20 million for that road project. The state would pitch in $12.5 million — another source of heartburn for skeptical senators — and the city of Rock Hill would kick in the rest: $7.5 million,” the State reports.
So, not only will half the costs for the interchange required to provide the free flow of traffic into the Panthers facility come from the federal government. In other words, from people who will never see or benefit from the project. But $7.5 million will come from the town of Rock Hill. A significant cost to put upon a local populace as state lawmakers roll out the welcome mat for a team that could pay for the entire project out of its own pocket, many times over.
“The bill passed with the support of State House leaders such as House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington; House Majority Leader Simrill, R-York; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence; and Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee,” according to the State.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn