Spotlight on state budget

Spotlight on state budget

April 30th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It may be frustrating that a previously reached deal on Tennessee's $31.4 billion budget was at least temporarily derailed a few days ago over disagreements about some of the spending it included.

But the spotlight that the debate threw onto the kinds of things on which tax dollars are spent is both wholesome and necessary.

It's not that the projects in themselves are necessarily bad. Some may well be highly desirable, in fact. But Democrats and some Republicans in the Republican-controlled General Assembly raised fair questions about parts of the spending -- which is an appropriate step not only in the currently tough economic circumstances but at any time.

For example, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, sought $500,000 for a museum in nearby Bristol, Va., to mark the origins of country music.

The state of Virginia has provided $3 million, and money was provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission, too. A building has been donated.

The museum probably would be a popular attraction. But there seems to be little doubt that the project would be of benefit primarily to that area of Virginia and northeastern Tennessee, not to Tennessee as a whole. So we cannot fault lawmakers who expressed misgivings about the significant expenditure and labeled it "pork."

In turn, Ramsey and some other lawmakers began taking a closer look at other projects in the budget that might be in line for cuts.

"If their reaction is every project has to be statewide, we'll make every project statewide," he said.

To which we say, "Great!"