Nashville’s tax hike, state’s no-bid contract for COVID masks make Beacon Center’s Pork Report

Posted at 10:22 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 21:31:29-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — The Beacon Center of Tennessee has released its annual "Pork Report," highlighting what it calls “millions of dollars in government waste, fraud and abuse.”

This marks the 15th year that the conservative think tank has released the report. The Beacon Center named Nashville’s 34% property tax increase as its “pork of the year winner.”

“At a time when Nashville is among the hottest cities in the country and has skyrocketing tax revenue, the city is somehow still in massive debt. Instead of making the changes necessary to fix the problem, such as reforming its unbelievably generous city pension system, enacting a spending cap, or getting rid of the egregious lifetime health insurance benefits for Council members, the mayor and City Council raised taxes on hard-working Nashvillians while making absolutely no sacrifices themselves,” the Beacon Center wrote in its report.

The Beacon Center said instead of raising taxes, the city “should reform its pension system, reform healthcare and post-employment benefits, rightsize the government workforce, renegotiate and reign in corporate welfare deals, and enact a spending cap.”

Tennessee's no-bid contract for COVID-19 masks also made the list.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bill Lee's administration signed an $8.2 million, no-bid contract with Renfro Corp., a North Carolina-based sock manufacturer, to produce five million face and mouth coverings to be distributed across Tennessee.

Sock maker gets $8 million no-bid contract to make face masks
Sock mask distributed by the state of Tennessee

The Beacon Center called the no-bid process “harmful to taxpayers.”

“If the government is mandating, or even suggesting, that we should all be wearing face masks, they should certainly be made available at no cost. But when the cost falls on taxpayers, and no bids were secured to get the best deal, that’s a blunder too big to cover up,” Beacon wrote.

Its solution? “End no-bid contracts when taxpayer dollars are on the line.”

Talk radio show host, author and financial advisor Dave Ramsey also made the list for getting $2 million and “possibly more” towards the expansion of his Franklin headquarters. The Beacon Center said the “new handout” is in addition to the $3.5 million that state and local governments gave the company for a previous expansion in 2015.

“Ramsey has long taught fiscal responsibility and pulled untold numbers of Americans from the brink of bankruptcy into financial freedom. It’s ironic, then, that some of those same families’ hard-earned money is headed to Ramsey Solutions.”

The Beacon Center also doesn't feel like Montgomery County scored, when they broke ground on a new Multi-purpose event center that will one day host Austin Peay Basketball home games and skating clinics for the Nashville Predators. "The reality is, if it can be done by the private sector then there’s no reason for the government to spend money doing it," said Justin Owen, Beacon's CEO. "I’m a huge Predators fan, I like paying to go to Predators games, I don’t want people who don’t like hockey or can’t afford to go to Predators games to have to subsidize my enjoyment of hockey. And it’s the same with other events or sports or those types of things."

NewsChannel 5 reached out to the offices of Governor Bill Lee, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett and Ramsey Solutions.

Dean Flener with TEMA responded with the following statement:

"An unprecedented national health emergency that began in March strained national supplies of personal protective equipment. Gov. Lee’s Unified Command Group established a PPE logistics, procurement, and warehousing operation to devoted sourcing and vetting PPE supplies and suppliers to deliver and supplement county PPE supply needs for frontline health care workers and first responders.

These supply sourcing efforts included working with vendors previously registered with the State of Tennessee, receiving donations from individuals or organizations, and following up on referrals from the private sector.

As UCG determined a need to supply free masks to the public, without impacting the PPE supply to first responders and health care workers, and to encourage Tennesseans to get tested for COVID-19, the State of Tennessee sourced and procured six million cloth face masks from Renfro Corporation.

The masks were provided free to Tennesseans at county health departments and COVID-19 testing events."

Also on this year’s Pork Report:

  • “The city of Chattanooga spending over $6 million on unused street lights.”
  • “The city of Knoxville and Knox County bailing out Zoo Knoxville, an entity that shouldn't be publicly funded in the first place.”
  • “The Memphis EDGE board using tax dollars to fund the failed TV Show 'Bluff City Law' even after it was predictably canceled.”

Click here to read the report in full.