South Carolina

Trying to lure Carolina Panthers to SC, state lawmakers work to provide tax breaks

S.C. lawmakers really want to bring the Carolina Panthers to the Palmetto State — so much so that on Tuesday they advanced a proposal aimed at offering the NFL team economic incentives before a deal has even been closed.

House and Senate finance panels on Tuesday passed identical bills — H. 4243 and S. 655 — to offer the Panthers job tax and development credits if the team moves its operations across the border to York County. The proposal also would let the team avoid paying city taxes and business license fees.

The House and Senate are expected to quickly pass the bills to Gov. Henry McMaster for his signature.

“The governor has responded that he would sign them with alacrity,” said House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, the bill’s sponsor.

State lawmakers say they believe the bill’s speedy passage will accelerate Panthers owner David Tepper’s plans to move his team’s headquarters and year-round practice facilities to the Rock Hill area.

“I just feel like the least we could do if someone is willing to bring something like this economic development venture into South Carolina, we need to hold the door open for them,” said Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, the Senate bill’s main sponsor.

The proposal should have a minimal fiscal impact on the state, Senate budget staff said Tuesday. The proposal’s fiscal impact statement states it will reduce state tax revenue by $225,000 a year, starting in 2021.

The proposal also has the support of the S.C. Association of Counties, lawmakers were told Tuesday. No group spoke against the bill.

Sources told The State last week Tepper is looking to buy up to 200 acres in Rock Hill for the new facilities.

Tepper’s plans for a move to York County have been rumored for months as Panthers officials held secret meetings with S.C. politicians. The talks were announced last week at a press conference held by McMaster and House and Senate leaders.

“This facility will certainly be a game changer for Rock Hill in particular and the state in general,” said state Sen. Greg Gregory, R- Lancaster. “Rock Hill’s been working really (the) last couple of decades to build itself as a sports tourism town, and they’ve been quite successful in that regard.”

The Panthers would move 150 employees into South Carolina and invest at least $150 million into the Palmetto State within four years, McMaster said last week. State leaders also hope the deal would spark development in the area, including new hotels, restaurants and shops.

And with the Panthers’ relocation, some lawmakers envision an opportunity for even more growth — but for another kind of futbol.

“I don’t think it’s out of the question that Charlotte would be in the running for a Major League Soccer franchise at some point in the near future,” said state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, one of several lawmakers who envision a MLS team playing its games in Charlotte but practicing in South Carolina. “It’s the fastest-growing sport in America, the fastest-growing league in America as well.”

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.