Wasteful Spending Continues for the Three Little Pigs of Washington County

March 16, 2008 10:53PM

By Drew Johnson Everyone remembers the fairy tale about the “Three Little Pigs.” You may not know, however, that we have our very own version of the Three Little Pigs right here in Washington County. In the fairy tale version, the Three Little Pigs leave home to seek their fortunes, learning valuable life lessons along the way. The Three Little Pigs in the Washington County version are state legislators who leave home to spend your money, forgetting their promises of fiscal responsibility in the process. Washington County’s Three Little Pigs are state Sen. Rusty Crowe and state Reps. Dale Ford and Matthew Hill. All three of these state legislators, each of whom is Republican, claims to be a fiscal conservative and a responsible steward of your tax dollars. Unfortunately, for taxpayers, those claims appear to be fairy tales. Last year, the state government taxed Tennesseans more than was necessary to pay for the services promised in the state budget. As a result, state coffers were flush with a record $1.3 billion surplus. Rather than refunding the surplus money back to taxpayers, Washington County’s Three Little Pigs were among many state legislators who decided to use some of the surplus to fund “Community Enhancement Grants.” The grants are nothing more than pork barrel spending that legislators pass along to nonprofits in their districts. These pork grants were created for one reason and one reason only: to buy votes. The grants allow legislators to present silly, oversized checks to groups like Volunteer Fire Departments and Boys and Girls Clubs while a photographer snaps a picture that ends up in a newspaper or campaign brochure. Bringing home pork provides an easy answer to constituents who ask “what have you done for me lately?” Unfortunately, what lawmakers like the Three Little Pigs forget is that the money didn’t just fall from the sky; it came from taxpayers’ pockets. And no matter how much legislators like the Three Little Pigs “give” to constituents, it will never be worth as much as it cost taxpayers in taxes. Of course, the Three Little Pigs will claim that the money went to a good cause. But by taking your tax dollars to support these “good causes,” Crowe, Hill and Ford are implying that their pet projects are better uses of money than anything their constituents would spent it on—including their families, their homes and charities that they support. Last week in the pages of this paper,Sen. Crowe admitted that the grants were “pork barrel” spending, “done differently this year because of the surplus.” Crowe implied that because the state government had taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars running out of its ears, lawmakers could go on a spending spree without any concern. He was wrong. Largely as a result of runaway spending, including the pork grants, the state government now faces a $212 million shortfall. Matthew Hill, who, to his credit, was against the idea of the pork grants when they came up on the House floor, was quick to present one of the oversized checks. In a quote to the Johnson City Press, Hill proclaimed “it’s always a good thing when I can bring home money to the community.” While the vote-buying practice of sprinkling pork throughout a district in a way that benefits a few people at the expense of all other taxpayers may be a “good thing” for Rep. Hill, I imagine most taxpayers don’t believe that it’s a good thing for them. Fortunately, there can be a happy ending to the story of Washington County’s Three Little Pigs. This year, because of the looming budget shortfall, these three lawmakers will have the opportunity to trim pork from the state budget in order to make ends meet. By cutting waste from the state budget in these lean times, it will mean more opportunity to return money to taxpayers by reducing taxes in good times. Hopefully Sen. Crowe and Reps. Ford and Hill will learn the moral of the story of Washington County’s Three Little Pigs: taxpayers appreciate being able to keep their money more than they appreciate lawmakers who bring home the bacon. ### This article originally appeared in the Johnson City Press.