Pork Report identifies $468M in questionable spending - WSMV News 4

Pork Report identifies $468M in questionable spending

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The Beacon Center's annual Pork Report was released Tuesday, documenting what they perceive to be $468 million in wasteful government spending by the state of Tennessee.

This year the watchdog group has labeled some spending as "tourist-related pork" and "corporate welfare."

Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen considers it the tip of the iceberg, but for him this year's report proves a problem Tennessee can't seem to solve.

"All told, in the seven years since we've been doing this publication, we've uncovered more than $2 billion in government waste across the state of Tennessee," Owen said.

Below are some highlights of the report:

  • The state gave Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant $266,000 to paint a sign on its roof that only 600 air passengers are able to view daily.
  • The state has spent $1.3 million per year on nine golf courses it owns.
  • $50,000 used to haul off dead cows in Columbia, TN
  • Tennessee gave $500,000 to a country music museum in Bristol, Va.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Tennessee will benefit from the country music museum once it opens next year, while House Democrats have ridiculed the project.

"The worst part of Ramsey's handout, which went to a country music museum in Bristol, was that not only was it outside his district, it was outside of the state of Tennessee," Owen said. "And that just goes to show you that government waste doesn't even stop at the state line."

In Nashville, the report criticizes a new water and snow park. Dollywood and Gaylord picked up $5.8 million in tax breaks.

"This just shows that corporate welfare is alive and well in Tennessee, with millions being taken from hard-working taxpayers and handed over to favored companies," Owen said.

The report also targets GM. The automaker picked up $1.5 million in grants to expand production in Spring Hill.

"Holding government accountable and holding politicians accountable is a full-time job for all of us," said Ben Cunningham, with the group Tennessee Tax Revolt. "And we can't ever forget that it's our money. It comes out of our family budget."

This year, for the first time, the group also named a "Pork of the Year." It went to the Upper Cumberland Development District in Cookeville, whose executive director built a huge mansion with taxpayer dollars only to move in herself.

The report doesn't just highlight problems. It also suggests solutions like a law to return surplus from tax revenues to taxpayers and a state spending commission similar to one the federal government uses.

The Beacon Center is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan group who says they are "dedicated to providing concerned citizens and public leaders with expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee."

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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