South Carolina’s budget constraints make it unlikely lawmakers will decide what to do about displaying the Confederate flag that was removed from Statehouse grounds last summer, the chairman of the museum that’s storing the flag told his board members Thursday.
“There’s so much pressure on the budget” to put additional money into roadwork and education, said George Dorn, chairman of the museum’s newly appointed governing board. “I just don’t think they’re going to discuss the plan this year.”
The Legislature voted last year to remove the rebel flag from the Statehouse’s front lawn after nine people attending a Bible study were gunned down at a historic black church in Charleston. The white man charged with the killings can be seen in photographs with the rebel flag.
The law passed by legislators specifically sent the flag to the Confederate Relic Room in Columbia, which has artifacts from every war South Carolinians fought in.
A separate measure directed the museum’s director to estimate costs for the flag’s “appropriate, permanent, and public display.”
But House leaders balked at the $3.6 million price tag of the board’s December proposal.
That plan included $550,000 for the display itself – with electronic screens scrolling the names of 22,000 South Carolina soldiers killed in the Civil War – plus $1.1 million to expand the museum, $500,000 for a new entrance, $850,000 to conserve existing flags and supporting artifacts and $650,000 to exhibit those.
“We’re not funding it,” Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, said last month.
The budget plan advanced by the House last week instead included Limehouse’s proposal to require an analysis of available museum space in Charleston and, if sufficient space exists, cost estimates for moving the museum’s collections there.
Dorn suggested that the board take no position on Limehouse’s proposal.
But the commander of South Carolina’s Sons of Confederate Veterans said his chapter will publicly oppose that idea. The 120-year-old museum needs to stay in the state’s central, capital city, said Leland Summers of Lancaster, who’s also a board member.
“With it being here, schools across the state that wish to visit have the same distance to come,” he said after the meeting. “This is an opportunity to make the premier Confederate museum for the country.”
The museum is located in the back of the State Museum building – via a separate door.
Limehouse believes the museum could become self-reliant in the city where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, saving taxpayers money.
“I personally feel like we should let it take its course this year,” said Dorn, a Vietnam veteran and retired director of the state’s budget office. Let’s “see what comes out.”