TLP: Like Shooting Fish in a Pork Barrel
Anyone who pays even the slightest bit of attention to the governmental appropriations process can cite an example of wasteful spending or money that would have been spent better some other way. Too often, the reason the money went where it did is blatantly political.
Welcome to the Go Fish Georgia Education Center, a $14 million fishing museum in Perry, population 9,600 or so. Kids love it. As for others, well, let's hear this fish tale from the NYT:
But not all Georgia taxpayers are so thrilled. Even before the museum opened in October, “Go Fish” had become shorthand in state political circles for wasteful spending. Republicans and Democrats alike groaned over $1.6 million a year in bond payments and operating costs. And even supporters concede that the museum would never have gotten financed in 2007 if the legislature knew where the economy was headed.The big payoff was supposed to be tourism. Uh huh. A hundred miles from Atlanta and three hours from the coast. So far, though, it seems to be pretty much a destination for school field trips and popular with local folks like Michael Morris, who told the NYT he brings his 2-year-old son to the museum every weekend and can't wait til the stocked lake opens.
“Hindsight is 20/20, but we should have seen this one coming,” said State Senator George Hooks, an Americus Democrat on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.
With a large state deficit looming, Go Fish has become a cautionary tale about the long-term ramifications of prerecession decisions. The state must make bond payments for the museum for the next 16 years. Meanwhile, cuts are being proposed to the state’s college scholarship program, health care and the prison system.
“We simply can’t afford it — not in this economy,” said Debbie Dooley, the Georgia coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, who likened the museum to Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” “When you want to talk about wasteful spending in Georgia, the first thing everyone brings up is Go Fish.”
And then there is the controversy over the museum’s location — in the home county of its main supporter, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican who left office this month after two terms.
“I don’t like to fish, but I love to catch,” Mr. Morris said. “Who wants to go somewhere else for three hours and not catch anything? You come here, and you’re guaranteed to go home with a fish.”And a $14 million hook in your ass.