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ECD deemed winner of Beacon’s TN 2017 ‘Pork of the Year’ award

Press release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

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 government’s role to help buy equipment for some private companies on the backs of Tennessee 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.

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.

Note: The full 2017 “Pork Report” is HERE. Excerpt of some highlighted stuff as ‘nominated’ for Pork of the Year:

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, and while taxpayers are footing the bill, 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 Sheriff 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.

Note: Arnold pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to four years in prison. Randy Boyd, who resigned as ECD commissioner earlier this year, is running for governor.

Bredesen ‘not running against Donald Trump,’ foresees $50M spending

Excerpt from a Tennessean story based on an interview with U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen:

“I’m not running against Donald Trump. I’m running for getting some things done here in Tennessee,” Bredesen said. “The issues surrounding health care are real and they’ve got nothing to do with liking or not liking Donald Trump.

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Harold Ford Jr. fired from Wall Street job after sexual harassment allegation

Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee Democratic congressman who traded politics for Wall Street, has been fired by Morgan Stanley after a human resources investigation found he engaged in conduct “inconsistent with our values and in violation of our polices,” the company said Thursday.

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UT to accept ACT test scores despite administrative foul-up

Press release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced the University of Tennessee has agreed to accept scores from the October 17 mis-administered ACT tests at Bearden High School and Alvin C. York Institute in Jamestown. The University’s decision was delivered to Lt. Governor McNally by University of Tennessee Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick.  Continue reading

DeVos in TN speech: ‘I’m just getting started!’

Speaking in Nashville at the National Summit on Education Reform, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rallied education leaders to expand “school choice,” took swipes at teachers unions and Democrats, and put in a good word for her boss’s campaign to overhaul the nation’s tax structure.

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Suggested TN political junkie reading: From a hallelujah for Haslam to John Wilder’s ghost

A listing of some recent writing on Tennessee politics and state government matters (delving into state history in a couple of cases; a ghost in another) that didn’t get mentioned in daily blogging but are well worth reading – at least in the opinion of one Tennessee political junkie.

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Katie Ashley appointed top Haslam administration lobbyist

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Katie Ashley will serve as director of legislation, the governor’s chief advisor and strategist for legislative matters.

The Crockett County native is one of the longest serving Haslam staffers, starting out on his campaign in 2009 before becoming a legislative liaison in 2011 and handling one of the governor’s top priorities: education in Tennessee.

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Haslam, Rolfe will travel to Asia

News release from the Department of Economic and Community Development

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe will travel to Asia from Oct. 9 to Oct. 13 for an economic development trip designed to strengthen ties with Asian businesses and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tennessee.

During the weeklong trip, Haslam and Rolfe will pitch Tennessee’s advantages to a number of Asian businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast U.S. The trip will include stops in both Japan and South Korea.

“We’ve worked hard to bring more foreign direct investment to Tennessee, and it’s helped create both high quality jobs and a thriving economy,” Haslam said. “I am looking forward to sharing Tennessee’s story with more Asian businesses and strengthening ties with existing companies who already know that our business-friendly environment and ready-to-work workforce make Tennessee a great choice to locate operations.” Continue reading

Latest ECD incentives: $28M to Finnish tire maker, $22M to South Korean appliance firm

The state of Tennessee is providing a $28.42 million grant to a Finnish tire manufacturer and grant of $22.3 million to a South Korean appliance manufacturer to support the companies opening of new facilities within the state, reports the Times Free Press.

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Hagerty takes oath as U.S. ambassador to Japan

Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty, a former Tennessee commissioner of economic development, Thursday took the oath of office as U.S. ambassador to Japan in a ceremony at Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House, reports Michael Collins.

His wife Chrissy and their four children were by his side… Vice President Mike Pence introduced Hagerty, who was greeted by the crowd with loud cheers and a double thumbs-up. Pence then administered the oath.

“I look forward to the challenge before us,” Hagerty said in brief remarks afterward.

… Pence said Hagerty has spent a lifetime working to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Japan, including a stint living in Japan on a three-year assignment as a consultant.

President Donald Trump’s choice of Hagerty as ambassador demonstrates the ties between the two countries remains strong, Pence said.

… To Hagerty, Pence said: “Bill, given your integrity, your very good leadership and your distinguished history, the president and I are confident you will excel in this new role to help make the extraordinary friendship and alliance between the United States of America and Japan even stronger.”