NASHVILLE (WDEF) The Beacon Center issues its 11th annual accounting of government waste, according to the state watchdog group.
And this year, UT, the Tennessee Aquarium and South Pittsburg all make the list.
The “Pork of the Year” award goes to the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.
“This taxpayer-funded office “encouraged” students and faculty to use gender neutral pronouns such as “ze” and “zir” in lieu of “he” and “she” and tried to ensure that holiday parties on the campus were not “Christmas parties in disguise.”
The report also singled out three “pork” projects from our area.
• $200,000 to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, which taxpayers will have to shell out on top of the $30 entry fee to visit the aquarium
• $900,000 in Washington-style earmarks for Hamilton County commissioners to squander on their pet political projects
• $125,000 that the Accounting Director of the South Pittsburg Housing Authority stole from taxpayers for personal purchases
“While the Chattanooga area isn’t as bad as cities like Nashville, there are still examples of fraud and abuse of public funds in this year’s Pork Report,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “Whether it is $900,000 for Hamilton County commissioners to waste on their favored political projects with no real oversight or the $100,000+ of theft and embezzlement in South Pittsburg, there is certainly room for improvement in how Chattanooga-area politicians spend hard-earned tax dollars.”
On the state level, The Beacon Center has several proposals to save taxpayer dollars (with their editorial comments).
• The Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) program, which studies show to have no lasting benefit to participating students beyond the second grade. Cost savings: over $90 million per year.
• TV and film incentives, which among other busts, bought us the canceled (and then picked up) Nashville television show. Cost savings: $14.5 million.
• State-funded golf courses…yes, sadly, we’re not kidding. Cost savings: over $30 million.
Owen says “While Tennessee has much more fiscal restraint than many other states, there are still rampant examples of waste, fraud, and abuse to uncover. We will continue to hold government officials’ feet to the fire.”
Owen concludes “It is important to be impartial and independent when writing this report because waste is a bipartisan issue.”