State Senate hopeful former State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) is calling for an legislative investigation into the spending and grant process into the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD).
“Over the past several years, it has become increasingly clear that ECD is being used as a “piggy bank” for sweetheart deals for the politically connected,” Carr said in a statement sent The Tennessee Star. “It is time to have a thorough audit by the Comptroller and a detailed investigation by the legislature to determine exactly how our tax dollars have been spent and the results that are being generated.”
The statement continues:
In its 12th annual Tennessee Pork Report released this week, the Beacon Center revealed that state and local government officials have wasted more than $400 million of taxpayer money this past year. Many of the worst examples of wasteful government spending in Tennessee are directly tied to ECD. “Sadly, each year of Beacon Center revelations about wasted tax dollars only seem to produce “hold my beer” responses from government officials who annually seek to show that they can produce even more egregious examples in the next year,” Carr pointed out.
The Beacon Center Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. Tennesseans were able to choose the infamous “Pork of the Year” award from a list of nominated examples. After all 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 $67 million annually for a mere 55 jobs per year from 2011-2014, which adds up to $1.2 million per job. The full 2017 “Pork Report” is HERE. The Report contains several other examples of wasteful spending by ECD, including other “incentive” programs ranging from supposed job creation to film projects.
The best place to start the cleanup of ECD is by assessing exactly what they have been doing with our tax dollars, and what those investments have actually produced in terms of jobs and private investment in the state, Carr said. “What is our return on investment,” he asked, “in clear terms that we can objectively measure. One of my first efforts as State Senator will be to try to get a handle on what exactly they are doing, and why they are doing it. Then we can decide whether taxpayers are getting the biggest bang for our bucks.”
Carr is also calling for a complete audit and accounting for the returns generated in the TNInvestco program that has been the focus of recent investigations by the Tennessean and others media outlets.
“TNInvestco has been of great benefit to a select few, but not for Tennessee taxpayers. It is one of the worst boondoggles in Tennessee history and the legislature has completely failed to fulfill its oversight function over that project,” Carr said.
Carr is one of three candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the special election in the 14th State Senate District formerly represented by State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), who resigned in November to accept a job with the Trump administration in the Department of Agriculture.
Murfreesboro businessman Shane Reeves and former State Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg) are also announced candidates in the Republican primary, which will be held on January 25.
The winner of that primary is expected to easily win the general election, which is scheduled to be held in March.