Beaufort News

Rep. Patrick retreats from plan to seek local tax options for Heritage tournament

New S.C. Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, has held off on introducing legislation that would allow Beaufort County residents to vote on a local-option sales tax to support the Heritage golf tournament if it doesn't find a title sponsor.

Patrick was preparing to submit a bill this week, but organizers of Hilton Head's PGA Tour event suggested he wait until they could "exhaust every lead before we go that route," he said.

Simon Fraser, chairman of the Heritage Classic Foundation that organizes the tournament, said the idea is one of many Heritage organizers have considered but is farther down the priority list.

"I really doubt there's going to be anything filed anytime soon," Fraser said.

Patrick said the bill is "not something any of us necessarily want to do," but he considers it a good way to provide "a backstop" to keep the tournament alive in 2012 and beyond.

"This event is important enough to at least try to come up with an option," Patrick said.

The Heritage Classic Foundation scrambled to secure a spot on the tour's 2011 schedule by pledging $4 million in reserves and persuading Hilton Head and Beaufort County to each pledge $1 million if necessary.

Patrick declined to provide a copy of the draft legislation, but said it would likely allow any municipality in Beaufort County to increase its sales tax by 1 percentage point for no more than three years or until it collects about $22 million -- approximately enough to cover the sponsorship for three years.

He said he would want residents to receive reduced ticket prices or other benefits in exchange for their support.

The bill originated from discussions among Heritage organizers and supporters, town officials and lawmakers, Patrick said.