Federal port snub triggers partisan finger pointing

8:45 PM, Mar 5, 2014   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- There was political bickering along partisan lines, after the Obama administration snubbed Georgia's $600 million project to deepen the Port of Savannah in its new budget.

Because cargo ships are getting bigger, state officials say they have to deepen the Port of Savannah -- and the river leading to it. State officials say federal officials have promised to fund two-thirds of the project.

Gov. Nathan Deal said the snub "sort of flies in the face of everything the president has said, and more particularly in the face of what the vice president has said when he visited Georgia" in September 2013.

"It's time we get moving" on the project, Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd in Chatham County at that time. Biden, a Democrat, joined Georgia's two Republican senators at the Port event last year, stressing bipartisan support for the project.

But Sen. Jason Carter, a Democrat who's running for governor, says funding may have dried up because of Washington-bashing by Gov. Deal.

"He's played Washington politics with so many issues across the board, and continued to pass the buck and sort of say it's other peoples fault, Washington is the problem, that it's really done a disservice to the taxpayers," Carter said Wednesday. Carter specifically cited Deal's refusal to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

But Deal says the port project hasn't been a partisan issue.

"We can't afford to lose time. We're not playing politics with this issue," Deal said. "I would hope the administration wouldn't either."

Deal said the state would start spending more than $200 million in allocated state funds to begin the project, and could sell construction bonds or develop public-private partnerships to fund the remainder. "I don't want it to come to that. But it is too important for us not to finish it," Deal said.

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