Entitlement Mentality

Boy, this is a hot topic as of late. I think it's something like 45% of Americans pay no income taxes now. Nearly 15% of the U.S. population relied on food stamps in August, as the number of recipients hit 45.8 million. Then there's the occupy idiots that want everything handed to them.

But for this story I'm going to identify another group of individuals who seem to have jumped into the entitlement mentality in a big way. I'm talking about elected officials. On all levels.

AP recently ran a story "Tenn. lawmakers' quarterly expenses up 8 percent" and that was just for their out-of-session expenses. But my real concern is on the local level.

It's not uncommon for local elected officials to load up in groups or solo and take very expensive junkets all around the country at 100% tax payers expense. Later this month, most of the Loudon County school board members will be heading to Nashville for a three day junket under the guise of training/continuing education. Of course the event will be at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. This little jaunt will cost the tax payers a pretty penny for board members frolicking fun and festivities. 

It's not uncommon for county, city and utility officials to also take tax payer/rate payer funded fun trips. And don't ever think they would go on the cheep. It's more likely than not that it will be first class all the way.

Here's my question. Why is it when local folks get elected to local positions they suddenly decide they are entitled to ride somebody else's dime. Most local official are guaranteed no more than four years in office so why do they feel all of a sudden the tax payers should pay for their "training"?

Elected officials should be commended for wanting expand their knowledge and understanding of governmental affairs. But if it's that important to them, why can't they pay their own bills? 

I have no answer to the question, I just wish my fellow officials would give a little more consideration to how they spend our tax  dollars.      

Tenn. lawmakers' quarterly expenses up 8 percent

ERIK SCHELZIG - Associated Press (AP)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Lawmakers' out-of-session expenses increased 8 percent in the third quarter despite the elimination of legislative oversight committees, an Associated Press review has found.

The state paid out about $270,000 in daily expenses and mileage reimbursements in the quarter ending Sept. 30, compared with $251,000 in the same year-ago period. The figures do not include out-of-state trips, but do include about $30,000 spent to send lawmakers to a Southern Legislative Conference meeting in Memphis in July.

Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey's spokesman Adam Kleinheider called the quarter's increase a "one time blip" because of the Memphis event.

"Our members had a great opportunity to serve as ambassadors for our state and they took it," he said. "Unified Republican government is committed to cutting government wherever and whenever it can."

The Legislature this year voted to do away with legislative oversight committees for areas like TennCare, prisons and workers' compensation. The elimination in staff and lawmaker expenses were projected save the state more than $850,000. That savings has been earmarked to make up for a reduction in the Hall income tax on dividends and interest for seniors.

Lawmakers' total expenses through the first three quarters were down $368,000, or 13 percent, compared with last year, owing largely to a shorter legislative session and a $9 reduction in the daily reimbursement rate for hotel, meals and other expenses to $176.

The special legislative session in January 2010 boosted that year's expenses, but also resulted in Tennessee winning more than $500 million in federal Race to the Top education grant.

First quarter expenses in 2010 were $1.4 million, compared with $1 million in 2009 and $1.2 million this year.

This year's second quarter lawmaker expenses of about $937,000 were about 14 percent less than in 2010, and a 38 percent drop from the $1.3 million spent in the period in 2009.

The General Assembly adjourned on June 18 in 2009, June 10 in 2010 and May 21 this year.

Lawmaker expenses through three quarters were $2.63 million in 2009, $2.74 million in 2010 and $2.37 million this year.