South Carolina governor Mark Sanford is looking to the future in an effort to keep Low Country military bases open. Sanford was at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort today with some good news. The general assembly appropriated $200,000 in March to help keep all bases in South Carolina alive, and today Beaufort got its share when Gov. Sanford gave a $50,000 check to the city.
"We'll begin this budget year with $500 million in the whole," said Sanford. "So there's not a lot of money in that pot, which says this check to the committee here in Beaufort is a high priority for the folks in Columbia."
The chamber's Military Enhancement Committee is planning to use this money to pay for advertisements and consultants to help Beaufort's bases survive the next round of base realignment and closure, or BRAC. "Is it a great head start? Obviously. Does it show real commitment from the state during hard economic times? Certainly it does," said the committee's John Payne.
Although this money is important to the campaign, many say Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort's role in our national defense should play a key part in its staying open. "This base is really important in the whole national defense effort," said South Carolina comptroller Gen. Richard Eckstrom. "This base serves as a model, because it combines branches of the service."
The entire Tri-Command pumps $454 million into the Beaufort economy each year. Losing any piece would be devastating. "We're going to continue to fight from the general assembly to assist the bases, to save the bases," said Rep. Catherine Ceips (R-Dist. 124).
If Beaufort were to lose the bases, experts say the local economy, especially real estate, would probably not recover by the year 2020.