Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pork-aholic = Tennessee politicians

During the last year, the Tea Partiers and others have complained about the wasteful pork spending going on in Washington D.C. by Congress and the Community Organizer in Chief. However, there's also a number of pork-aholics in Nashville in the Tennessee Legislature and they are led by Porky Pig himself, Governor Phil Bredesen.

For the last few years, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has been putting out a document called the Tennessee Pork Report. The organization goes through the state's budget and identifies items of wasteful, unnecessary spending, and then produces a report of their findings. Needless to say, it's not a favorite read for Tennessee's legislators. I have read through the 2009 report (read it here) and here are some of the highlights :
  • Tennessee taxpayers subsidized the 12 state-run golf courses in the amount of $2.3 Million. Only one of them broke even and eight lost at least $130,000.
  • Over $29,000 from the Tennessee Arts Commission subsidized the Nashville Film Festival. Some of the films contained "adult-oriented themes" that at best bordered on pornography.
  • A $5000 "Individual Artist Fellowship" funded by taxpayers was given to Victoria Lancelotta. She is known for writing books containing short stories with "adult-oriented themes." Many of the stories involve teenagers.
  • Over $187,000 was handed out by the state to subsidize fairs and livestock shows.
  • "Conservation Hall" sure doesn't conserve taxpayer dollars. It's also known as "the party bunker" and  is a 14,000 square foot entertainment area underneath the governor's mansion. After spending nearly $13 Million to renovate the mansion (which was worth only $900,000 at the time), Bredesen's bunker will cost another $10 Million-plus once complete. The original cost estimate was $4.6 Million. Taxpayers are having to make up the difference because Bredesen's wife has been unable to raise the funds through private donations as she promised.
  • A record $1.1 Billion in bonds including $262 Million that amounts to corporate welfare to bring in a new Volkswagon plant. The interest on the bonds - ONLY $438 Million.
  • A $5.3 Million subsidy ("incentive") to farmers to "encourage" them to grow switchgrass for ethanol production. The problem - this ethanol facility is yet to be completed. Currently, it's nothing but a Monroe County field.
  • $6.5 Million for "boll weevil eradication porgram - However, the state budget says the state is "99% boll weevil free." The 1% left sure are high maintenance.  
  • The Department of Finance and Administration paid an extra $26,000 in phone bills for failing to disconnect 89 unused phone lines. Can you hear me now ??
These are only a few of the problems the 2009 Tennessee Pork Report cited. As you can see, a ton of taxpayer dollars has been wasted in Tennessee which is bad at any time, but during a span of years in which state employees have been forced into early retirement and services have had to be cut it's inexcusable. As the legislature convenes for it's 2010 session, they will be faced with a projected budget shortfall of about $1 Billion. Recently, the governor said that services would have to be cut and non-violent criminals might have to be released from Tennessee's prisons to cover the shortfall. He has since changed his mind on that, but the fact remains that the budget will be tight. Rep. Debra Maggart (Sumner Co. - R) may have the best idea when she said recently that she was not gonna submit many new bills this session because money is tight. Maybe the governor and the rest of the state legislature should follow her lead. It would be a good start to ending their pork addiction. But if they don't - Tennessee voters will end it for them this November at the ballot box.
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