In an interview with TNReport, Gov. Bill Haslam says he has signed the state's $31.5 billion budget, which spends about $400 million more than his original proposal.
Included in the spending plan is the budget-item-heard-round-the-state(s). That is, $500,000 for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Va., which is quite literally across the street from Bristol, Tenn., hometown of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Democrats elongated this year's legislative session by feigning outrage over the item, but Haslam says he's OK with it.
“It’s kind of an easy target to say, oh that’s in Virginia. Why are we funding it when it’s yards from Tennessee?” the governor told TNReport. “It’s not like we funded something that’s in northwest Virginia.”
Frankly, chipping in a bit of Tennessee cash for the museum doesn't really bother us. Contributing to the preservation of cultural history is generally a good thing, and it's not like we're giving money to a state in the North (gasp!).
But you have to wonder where this could lead. First we're giving money to something that's just "yards from Tennessee." Then it's a few miles. Next thing you know, we're bankrolling the Charlotte Bobcats as our roads crumble beneath us, with a state police force so underfunded that we're left completely open to attack from survey-wielding census workers, jihadist charter schools and journalists doing their jobs.
And then we run out of textbooks.
This neighboring-states-with-benefits arrangement seems fine for now, but it's hard to see where it ends. First it's an innocent museum, a one-budget stand — and two General Assemblies later, we're the country's Oprah Winfrey. You get a museum and you get a museum and you get a museum. Look under your capitol dome, states across the land, and you'll find a Tennessee check for 500 large.
Simply put, this slope looks rather slippery, am I right?