The Tennessee Center for Policy Research has awarded the 2006 Lump of Coal award to Governor Phil Bredesen and the Tennessee General Assembly for failing to return an estimated $918 million in surplus tax monies to the taxpayers.

Rather than returning the money to Tennesseans by reducing or suspending the state’s six percent sales tax on groceries, lawmakers frittered much of the surplus on pork projects and political payoffs. Among the surplus-funded pork projects are a $1 million program to encourage state employees in Nashville to take the bus to work, a $123,000 grant to a soul music museum in Memphis and $50,000 for an online encyclopedia.

“When customers pay more than an item costs in a store, the cashier gives them their change back. When taxpayers, who are fundamentally customers of government services, overpaid for the cost of government this year, lawmakers kept the change for themselves,” said Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.