Last week, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was forced to defend a $500,000 addendum to the newly passed state budget for a new museum in Bristol, Va., that will chronicle the origins of country music. The allocation was criticized by some of his colleagues, who questioned the logic in these austere fiscal times of sending Tennessee tax dollars across the state line to Virginia.
Ramsey correctly argued that Tennessee will more than see its investment on the museum returned through sales taxes collected from tourists who will visit the area as a result of this new attraction. Still, the lieutenant governor seemed a bit shaken by accusations from Democratic members that his appropriation was nothing more than “pork.” He suggested that there were other projects included in the budget that could also be called pork.
He is right about that. There is an old saying in Nashville that holds true today: “Pork is government funding that goes to districts other than your own.”
It sounds a bit cynical, but we don’t see anything wrong about a fair return of state tax dollars to Northeast Tennessee. We hope Ramsey will keep that in mind next year in considering a $11 million allocation for a state-of-the-art fish hatchery on the Watauga River in Elizabethton.
Now that Carter County is part of his newly redrawn Senate district, we are certain Ramsey will devote more of his attention to the project than he has given it in the past few years. When the hatchery was first proposed two years ago, Ramsey dismissed the project as “purely pork barrel spending.”
He has since soften his views on the hatchery, but has not used his influence to move the project over that first and all-so-critical hurdle of obtaining state funding. We know $11 million is a lot of money, but like the tax dollars Ramsey sent to Bristol, Va., we believe it is a sound investment in the region for generations to come.