Tennessee will pay for tourists to travel to its largest cities this year – but some are questioning if the gift is the best use of taxpayer dollars.
Gov. Bill Lee (R) was joined by country music star Brad Paisley in a video promoting the “Tennessee on Me” initiative, although some top lawmakers said they were blindsided by the announcement, a report said.
“The state’s buying all these airline tickets and giving ‘em away to anybody who books two nights in a hotel room to come to Tennessee, so it’s ‘Tennessee on Me,’” Lee said in the spot, posted by Paisley to his Twitter on July 4.
The state will fund $250 vouchers for up to 10,000 people who book two-nights at participating hotels in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, according to WKRN. The reservations have to be booked by Sept. 15 and for this year.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) said he would have preferred to use the money for traditional marketing “rather than direct transfers of Tennessee taxpayer to mostly out-of-state recipients,” according to the newspaper.
He also took issue with the promotion funneling travelers to major cities, saying a few instituted “overly aggressive lockdown policies.
“It makes little sense to limit the promotion to those cities when our rural areas were hit as hard, if not harder, by the economic crisis than those cities,” McNally said, according to the Tennessean.
Others criticizing the move include a conservative think tank and the chairman of the state Senate’s finance committee who took issue with the name of the program.
“The people of Tennessee are inviting you to come to Tennessee, not the governor,” Sen. Bo Watson told the Tennessean. “This is not the governor’s money, this is taxpayers’ money.”