As the session drags on endlessly and reporters nod off at their desks, Barrett's many friends in the legislature have slipped into action. They've hidden an amendment in the latest House omnibus budget bill. They're sneaky like that. Their amendment orders the Transportation Department to build Barrett's road for him, and damn the consequences.
What are the consequences? How about the loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funds? That money is at risk because Barrett's special amendment would force the state to relinquish federal right-of-way along Interstate 24. The feds frown on that.
"This could definitely cost us some money. That sounds like the Washington way of doing business," said department spokeswoman Julie Oaks, taking a poke at one of the legislature's more prominent supporters of the NRA.
At this moment, Pith is looking at a letter from the Federal Highway Administration to Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely, which says:
If the Department moves forward with the relinquishment of the Interstate right-of-way ... the State of Tennessee could potentially become ineligible to receive a portion of the Federal funding available to it under the Federal-aid Highway Program. Tennessee's share of the FAHP totaled $762,023,000 for federal fiscal year 2009.
That's $762 million. But hey, what's a little money between friends?