Officials didn't realize it at the time, but it was a comical scene back in October when it seemed like every state employee in Tennessee was in McMinnville for the grand reopening of our Driver Testing Center.
There were emotional speeches and refreshments -- and of course a ribbon-cutting ceremony to amplify the importance of this vital state facility returning to our cozy community.
One by one, officials made their way to a podium that was placed in front of an estimated 100 folding chairs. And, one by one, they took turns singing like canaries and praising each other for their great work in joining together to reopen the Driver Testing Center.
It was a shining example of government finally working for the people, they said. It was proof about what could be accomplished with everyone cooperating, they claimed.
If that can be viewed as a government success story, the state's decision to leave our Driver Testing Center unfunded must be viewed as a giant failure. While our state lawmakers were again expanding the places people can carry loaded guns, they finished their legislative session Wednesday by neglecting to fund a service we need right here in McMinnville.
This comes at a time when the state is enjoying unprecedented economic prosperity. In a state budget glance sent to me Thursday from Capitol Hill, one of the highlights is that Tennessee's Rainy Day Fund will climb to $800 million. Next to that total is a notation that says this is the "Highest Level Ever."
I don't see the purpose in having an obscene Rainy Day Fund while cutting crucial state services to Tennessee taxpayers. That would be like me boasting that I had $50,000 in my personal savings account while allowing the electricity to my house to be disconnected.
The word "disconnected" seems appropriate in this case because it describes the relationship between our lawmakers and the citizens they represent. Don't tell me we have more money than EVER, then force me to drive to Tullahoma to take a driver's test.
When people throw their arms in the air and question government, this is the reason why. Just look at our local saga as an example of a misguided government.
Our Driver Testing Center was closed last May, despite a huge budget surplus, and all the equipment was removed.
Then, after a partnership with our city and county governments was reached, the state announced it was reopening our Driver Testing Center at the exact same spot. All the equipment was moved back and IT personnel reinstalled the computer network. Now the facility won't be funded, again.
It's fitting all this state government foolishness surrounds our Driver Testing Center. Our lawmakers continue to make wrong turns on this issue.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.