$371 million pointed out as government waste - WSMV Channel 4

$371 million pointed out as government waste in latest "Pork Report"

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

It's one report that is most always entertaining and points out government waste. The 2011 "Pork Report" includes one of the Channel 4 I-team's biggest investigations among the millions in waste.

This is the sixth annual report put out each year by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. The report identifies millions in taxpayer dollars the writers say was wasted, mismanaged or whittled away due to fraud.

Justin Owen, the president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research said Tuesday at a press conference, "All told this year … State and local government wasted over $371 million dollars of taxpayers' money."

Among the list of things pointed out this year as waste is what the TCPR calls "the million dollar job."

In 1986, the state legislature created the Four Lake Authority, which uses taxpayer money to attract new business to Trousdale, Macon, Smith, Sumner, and Wilson counties.

But the problem according to TCPR, since 2002, taxpayers have shelled out more than $13.5 million to the authority which has only created 16 jobs. That breaks down to more than $847,000 for each job.

Here's one that may make you wonder why your green is going towards the state's greens.

For the past six years, Tennessee's nine state run-golf courses have all shot over par. In 2010, the pork report shows a loss of $1.7 million.

And the Channel 4 I-team first exposed what the authors of the Pork Report felt should also be pointed out again.

The Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk, David Torrence, who admitted to the I-Team that he only worked 3 days, played golf on company time and hired his two sons to work in his office, is being called out yet again for wasting roughly $95,500 in taxpayer money.

Owen said taxpayers should be warned about such abuse by elected officials. "And it's not just an issue that Nashville taxpayers need to deal with. It's an issue that all Tennesseans need to know about because they need to look and see if that is happening at their level," said Owen.

Since 1990, Nashville and Davidson County taxpayers have paid for health insurance benefits of current metro council members, as well as 31 others who've served at least two full terms.

While metro pays 75 percent of the total cost, city taxpayers still foot an annual bill of $245,898.

Meter readers in East Tennessee got quite the perk from the state. Between 2005 and 2010, four public utilities, Sevier County Utility District, Hawkins County Utility District, Powell-Clinch Utility and Oak Ridge Utility District sent employees on an all expense paid trip to Costa Rica.

According to the Pork Report, those ratepayers paid more than $131,000 and none of the employees took vacation leave while they were out.

Owen said, "As the pork report shows this year, it's clear government doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending addiction."

Through a spokesperson, Governor Haslam said that the budget was approved unanimously by the General Assembly and includes key investments, strategic reductions and savings for the future.

Yvette Martinez said, "He is focused on making Tennessee the number one place in the Southeast for job growth, and while economic development incentives play a role in that process, he's been focused on improving education and ensuring Tennessee has an attractive business climate.  As we work on economic development projects, we will base potential incentives on key metrics to make sure the project is in the best interest of Tennessee taxpayers."

As for solutions to the state's over spending, among the things that the Tennessee Center for Policy Research is proposing would be to enact a state kicker law. The state of Oregon already has a similar law on the books. It would essentially "kick back" surplus money back to taxpayers.

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