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Reason Foundation

Gov. Sanford: State-Run Golf is "Waste"

Leonard Gilroy
May 15, 2009, 9:05pm

Amid an epic battle brewing in his state over the use of federal stimulus dollars, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford added a great daily feature on his website this week—Waste of the Day—to shine a spotlight on examples of government waste.

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I'm always frustrated by the utter absurdity of governments being in the business of running golf courses. I suspect that Gov. Sanford feels the same way (emphasis mine):

Today's Waste of the Day is state-run golf course parks that lose nearly $500,000 annually.

The state owns and operates golf courses at two state parks - Hickory Knob State Park and Cheraw State Park. After noting the parks' annual revenue loss several years ago, Gov. Sanford suggested privatizing their operations - because if there's anything the private sector has demonstrated an ability to succeed in managing in South Carolina, it's golf courses. Instead, budget writers inserted a provision that specifically prohibits the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) from exploring private management options. PRT has successfully privatized operations of bait shops at several state parks, saving thousands each year.

It's unfortunate to see big spenders place protective silos around government jobs that aren't inherently governmental in order to appease public employee unions. It's even worse when they erect those silos out of political spite. I'm not sure which this is (I suspect the latter), but regardless, South Carolina taxpayers should view this as just one example of the sort of government largesse and out of control spending that Gov. Sanford has been targeting so tirelessly of late.

And taxpayers should be outraged that they're subsidizing green fees and paying gold-plated public employee benefit packages for golf course managers.

In the bigger picture, Gov. Sanford is right about the fiscal handwriting on the wall in that state. Spending one-time stimulus dollars on one-time budget fixes—and ignoring the future budget implications—would be fiscal folly. Paying down state debt with those dollars, as Gov. Sanford's pushing for, would actually be a fiscally responsible use of those dollars, as I wrote earlier today in a post about the use of one-time windfalls in California.


Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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