Tryon Palace is a collection of historic buildings and museums that offer visitors a glimpse into North Carolina’s past. The site’s stated mission is to “engage present and future generations in the history of North Carolina from early settlement and development of statehood through the mid-twentieth century by collecting, interpreting and preserving objects, buildings, landscapes and events that enrich understanding of the making of our state and nation.”
Located in New Bern, the Palace looks like a great place to visit, and to bring your family to. It is not, however, something that should be receiving taxpayer dollars.
North Carolina taxpayers have been subsidizing Tryon Palace to the tune of millions of dollars annually for years. Categorized in the Department of Cultural Resources in the state budget, the Palace received $3 million in taxpayer funds last year, offset by less than $400,000 in receipts.
Attractions such as Tryon Palace do not fit into the “core functions” of state government. Those who claim that North Carolina’s state budget has been “cut to the bone” need to explain how a tourist destination continues to receive millions of taxpayer dollars.
Tryon Palace should support itself through voluntary donations, visitor admissions and even corporate partnerships. If employees of the Palace traveled throughout the state collecting money for its operations by threatening force against those who didn’t pay up, we would rightly and universally condemn the practice. So why do we accept it when the state government does so?
Because it uses taxpayer dollars instead of voluntary support for an attraction far removed from any reasonable definition of core functions of state government, the Tryon Palace is this week’s Waste of the Week.