Tennessee Budget Deadlocked Because Of Fish - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Tennessee Budget Deadlocked Because Of Fish


By Chris Cannon

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives left Capitol Hill Thursday for the Memorial Day holiday without coming to an agreement on a budget proposal.  The sticking point that created the impasse was a proposed fish hatchery.

The budget proposal would have the TWRA build the cold-water fish hatchery in Elizabethton, Carter County.  That is House speaker Kent Williams' district.

The hatchery where the state would raise trout and bass had a $16 million price tag and would create 22 new jobs.

"That's the lynch pin that's keeping us from a budget agreement," according to Republican House member Glen Casada of Franklin.

Representative Casada told NewsChannel 5 Republicans feels very strongly about the budget proposal.

"We on our side, the republicans, Ron Ramsey, felt like the fish hatchery is a pork barrel project and a $16 million waste of taxpayers money and we won't give on that," Casada said.

Casada feels this just is not the time for the state to build a new fish hatchery.

"Maybe a worthy cause, but in a year when people are losing their jobs, unemployment's at 10% and we have flood victims that have lost everything," Casada added.

Most democrats disagree with the republican notion that this is a bad time to invest in 22 new jobs.

"If this isn't the time to help the people of the State of Tennessee, somebody tell me when is.  Are we going to wait until times are good and the economy is booming before we start spending money," said Democratic Representative Mike Turner from Old Hickory.

"Fish is the new pork in Tennessee," according to Justin Owen.

Owen is part of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research in Nashville.  They are a government watchdog group.

Owen said the price tag for the fish hatchery project does not pay off in the number of jobs it creates.

"You do the math.  That's about $768,000 a job.  Obviously the people who work there aren't going to get paid that.  The rest is government waste," according to Owen.

Many democrats feel the fish hatchery delay is just a case of election year politics.

"I think Ron's (Ramsey) trying to set himself up where it won't be so hard on him his first year as governor.  I think that's why he's doing.  I think we're playing politics here," Representative Turner said Thursday afternoon.

Capitol Hill insiders say the fish hatchery could stall budget talks for more than a week.

By law, the state budget has to be in place by July 1 or the government will shut down.

E-mail: ccannon@newschannel5.com


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