In the 12th annual Tennessee Pork Report, the Beacon Center revealed that state and local government officials wasted more than $400 million of taxpayer money this past year.
The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans 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. Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold and the state Jobs4TN Program came in the 3rd and 4th with 19% and 15%, respectively.
Other egregious examples of government waste from Knoxville and East Tennessee include:
$500,000 to create bike lanes in Knoxville to promote a green and dynamic city that “embraces urban life.”
$1.2 million taxpayer handout to the Canadian company Pure Foods via the Kingsport Economic Development Board. Pure Foods filed for bankruptcy shortly after this “investment.”
“This year’s Pork Report shows several frightening examples of government waste from East Tennessee,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “Whether it is the Kingsport Economic Development Board giving over a million dollars in corporate welfare to a company that filed for bankruptcy shortly after or Knoxville spending a whopping half a million dollars on bike lanes, government needs to volunteer more fiscal restraint.”
Owen continued by noting, “The Beacon Center prints the Pork Report every year to make sure state and local governments are held accountable for how ineffectively they spend our tax dollars. The wasteful spending in this report should make Tennesseans’ blood boil. We hope that government officials will use this report to slash wasteful spending in 2018.”
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 and the editable video files can be found here.