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Tennessee Pork Report reveals $400 million of taxpayer money wasted

NASHVILLE, December 12, 2017 - Today, the Beacon Center of Tennessee released its 12th annual Tennessee Pork Report. The report revealed that state and local government officials wasted more than $400 million of taxpayer money this past year.

pork report
Image courtesy of the Beacon Center of Tennessee

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s Pork Report is in its second decade of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars at the state and local level.

The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans like you to choose the infamous "Pork of the Year" award, and it really came down to the wire.

After nearly 400 votes were cast, the "winner" of the award was the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development for their Industrial Machinery Tax Credit. The department took 34% of the vote in the public poll. In one of the most inefficient instances of corporate welfare in recent years, Tennessee taxpayers paid a whopping $67 million annually for a mere 55 jobs per year from 2011-2014, which adds up to $1.2 million per job. Even if the program's main goal isn't to create jobs, it is not the role of government to help buy equipment for some private companies on the backs of taxpayers. The $14 million of tax dollars given to the Opryland Hotel to build a waterpark (that residents are not even allowed to use) came in a close second with nearly 32% of the vote.

Each of the following cases were nominated for 2017's Pork of the Year Award:

• Jobs4TN: This state-based program has been taking millions of taxpayer dollars for years, spending more than $60 million in 2016- 2017 alone. This money then goes to a select few fortunate companies for their hiring and professional development needs, empowering government to pick winners and losers, and leaving left-out employers across the state to compete with these subsidized businesses.

• Opryland Waterpark: The city of Nashville decided to give $14 million to Gaylord Opryland Hotel to construct a waterpark. Taxpayers are footing the bill; however, the waterpark is open only to those staying at the hotel.

• Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD): ECD’s Industrial Machinery Tax Credit has doled out an astonishing $1.2 million in taxpayer money...per job. The tax credit has created just 55 total jobs at a cost of nearly $67 million.

• A Sheriff’s E-Cigarette Inmate Scheme: Former Rutherford County Sheri Robert Arnold profiteered off a captive audience of local inmates who were sold e-cigarettes from Arnold’s company - earning him and his wife nearly $75,000 over the course of their scheme, which was later exposed by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

"Tennessee has some work to do in rolling back wasteful spending and returning accountability to our halls of government," said Justin Owen, President & CEO of the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

"We have ample problems to solve within our own state borders before we can point fingers elsewhere. So, let’s get started."

The 2017 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars. An electronic version of the report can be found here.

Source: Beacon Center of Tennessee

Published December 12, 2017

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