Georgia Senators React to Lack of Port Funding in President’s Budget

March 4, 2014 15:34 pm

by Jon Richards · 33 comments

President Obama released his proposed budget today, and one big missing item was any funding for construction of the deepening of the Port of Savannah. Instead, a little over a million dollars was slotted for further studies on the project.

This, despite a visit by Vice-President Biden to Savannah last year when he promised to get funding, “come hell or high water.”

Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson are not happy. They released a joint statement this afternoon, saying:

We are deeply disappointed and frustrated to see the promises to help advance the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project made by President Obama and Vice President Biden were not fulfilled in today’s budget release. It is baffling to see this administration choose to ignore a statute passed just six weeks ago that cleared all remaining obstructions to moving forward with the project. The administration has once again chosen to ignore existing law, and in this case needlessly hamstring the advancement of SHEP.

This administration has promised to deliver economic development and economic opportunity to the state of Georgia through the authorization and funding of SHEP. During a visit to the port last year, Vice President Biden promised that “We are going to get this done, come hell or high water,” and the president himself included SHEP in his 2012 “We Can’t Wait” initiative. It is now clear they would rather pay lip-service to Georgians than deliver on their promises. With clear opportunity in front of them and congressional direction to guide them, the decision to delay SHEP’s construction was solely the administration’s. This project would support hundreds of thousands of jobs each year while generating billions in revenue. The Obama administration had the opportunity to fulfill their campaign promises of economic and job growth, and chose not to.

Having wasted this opportunity and broken their promises to the state, we call on the administration to allow this project to move forward and to get out of the way of the people of Georgia. We are tired of waiting.

Congress greenlighted the project in the recent omnibus spending bill. It was included in the President’s 2012 “We Can’t Wait” initiative.

Something happened to change the President’s mind. Could it be gubernatorial or senatorial politics in the Peach state? Tell us in the comments.

sonofliberty March 4, 2014 at 3:59 pm

………n0 Medicaid expansion? No Savannah Harbor expansion.

objective March 4, 2014 at 4:07 pm

i am gonna go with judicial nominations as the countervailaing negotiating concern

Ellynn March 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm

More like, we will add the harbor if you don’t fulibuster my bill.

A. Neil LeCage March 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Are they really surprised? People keep keep saying “NO!” to Obama and then really expect to get what they want from him? Real governance takes compromise and actually working together. Yes, I know there are those that say that Obama is not willing to compromise himself so why should Republicans? The answer is that he and the Democrats have the White House and the Senate, so they get to make the rules at the moment. That is the reality of all of this. Georgia needs the port deepened very badly, so Georgia is going to have to give into something that Obama wants. It worked with Clinton and Gingrich, and it can work in the reality that we are in now.

gcp March 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm

If this project is needed by Georgia then Ga. taxpayers should pay for all of it.

The Last Democrat in Georgia March 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm

That’s a good idea.

One way that Georgia taxpayers could potentially pay for deepening the Port of Savannah is to do what is done at major seaports all over the world, which is to sell the port to private investors (through a long-term lease deal) on the conditions that the buyer pay the costs of deepening the port channel to 50 feet and that the buyer also pay the costs of designing, constructing, operating and maintaining a combination high-speed freight rail/passenger rail line between Atlanta and Savannah.

A. Neil LeCage March 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm

I understand the sentiments each of you have, but it still does not change the fact that obstructionists should not be asking for help. Something tells me that Gov. Christie could have gotten this in the budget.

On the issue each of you raised, though, is that this truly impacts not just Georgia but the entire Southeast, if not a larger footprint.

The Last Democrat in Georgia March 4, 2014 at 10:01 pm

I agree that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie likely could have gotten something like this in the budget…at least before the “Bridgegate” scandal.

Also, while I’m not the biggest fan of Obamacare or the accompanying Medicare expansion, when it comes to their attempts to get the Feds to fund the deepening of the Savannah port, I don’t think that what Georgia Republicans are doing can be considered “asking” at this point, but more like begging…desperate begging.

John Konop March 5, 2014 at 6:45 am

Last Dem,

I agree, rail with port is key….it could be done privately or with a user fee via public dollars…this would be big for Georgia…..combines access to metro atlanta…with I 75, I 20 and our airport…..it would be great selling tool for businesses to relocate here and or expand… we still need a fix for metro Atlanta traffic…if we could complete all of this it would be a big boost for the future of Georgia….

The Last Democrat in Georgia March 5, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Those are excellent points, Mr. Konop.

At this point in time of a massive federal debt and dwindling transportation funds from traditional sources, private investment and user fees are most likely the best ways that we can fund all of our overwhelming transportation needs.

Jon Richards March 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm

First District Congressman Jack Kingston also issued a statement. Significant, not only because he represents Savannah, but also because he is running for the Senate.

I am shocked and bewildered at the Obama Administration’s continued stonewalling of this vital project for our economy. To tout this project on the campaign trail, talk about it on the Tonight Show, and then to hide behind the bureaucracy when it’s time for action is hypocrisy beyond the pale.

Just six weeks ago, President Obama himself signed legislation that cleared any remaining hurdles for the project to move forward. There is no doubting the law or legislative intent of Congress on this project: it is time for construction and for the federal government to meet its obligations.

Today’s announcement is one more example of the Obama Administration ignoring the law and shows just how callus, cynical, and disingenuous its political arm has become. No wonder Vice President Biden snuck in and out of Atlanta refusing to speak to the public.

I will not rest until we get this project underway and see its benefit realized for the people of Georgia and the people of this country.

NorthGAGOP March 5, 2014 at 8:00 am

Kingston has been on getting the port deepened for 17 or 18 years. It’s still not done.

Nixonstheone March 4, 2014 at 8:35 pm

So much for how the Dems will help Georgia.

The Last Democrat in Georgia March 4, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Is this some kind of joke?

Do these guys really think that Obama is going to lift a finger to help out a bunch of Georgia Republican politicians that he knows hates his guts with a burning passion?

If Georgia Republicans really want to deepen the Savannah port, they should be getting the money themselves and not embarrassing themselves by begging a bankrupt federal government and a hostile President (who isn’t going to lift a finger to help them, takes a perverted pleasure in seeing Republicans desperately beg him for mercy, and loves sticking it to Republicans every chance he gets).

Jon Richards March 4, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Of course, one might think that if the President wanted to attract some independent/crossover votes, he would not stand in the way of the port expansion that was approved by Congress.

The Last Democrat in Georgia March 4, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Obama himself personally doesn’t need the independent/crossover votes as he has already been re-elected to a second term.

Obama, like just about every other Democratic politician, also sees the political calculus going on in Georgia with the state’s very fast-changing demographic makeup in which the state could potentially change from the Republican column back to the Democratic column sometime within the next decade or so.

With Georgia holding gubernatorial and senatorial elections this year, Obama and the national Democrats aren’t going to do anything to help Georgia Republicans keep control of the statewide offices that are up for grabs (particularly the Governor’s office and the open U.S. Senate seat) by giving them funding for a big infrastructure project that could help improve or even boost their economic credentials before the general election.

If Obama does fund the Savannah port deepening, it likely won’t be until after the 2014 General Elections at the earliest and if he has his druthers maybe not until after the 2016 Presidential Election when Georgia’s second U.S. Senate seat comes up for an election.

Obama and the national Democrats know that giving Georgia funding to deepen the Savannah port at this point would help Republicans keep control of the Governor’s office and Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, which means that Georgia Republicans should not expect federal funding for the project to come easy (…or at all if national Democrats get their way).

Obama and the national Democrats know that Republicans have struggled during their time of political dominance in Georgia, and Obama and the national Democrats intend to help Georgia Republicans continue to struggle by not giving them funding for the Savannah port deepening until they are forced to.

Harry March 5, 2014 at 12:11 am

Screw Obama’s extortion. Let’s make this a cause for Georgia and do it ourselves.

IndyPendant March 5, 2014 at 6:45 am

You’re so funny, Harry! That’s not going to work, because even though (most) Georgians HATE paying Federal taxes, we already take back more Federal tax dollars than we send to Washington.

Harry March 5, 2014 at 9:34 am

Statistics are what’s funny. You can’t trust statistics coming out of DC. These days with massive deficit spending (40% of the budget), it’s hardly likely that any state is paying in more than they receive. Also, keep in mind that military budget allocated to Georgia has only limited benefit here because the service members and contractors are actually sending most of the money to elsewhere.

Ellynn March 5, 2014 at 10:38 am

As someone who lives near a Georgia military base, who’s statewide clients are government types and/or business that depend on military spending, both directly and through the paychecks of military and civillian base personal, your very wrong on that one benifits places like Hinseville, St Marys, Kingston, Savannah, Augusta, and Columbia. Very wrong.

Harry March 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

Sure, there’s local benefit. But much of the benefit goes to non-permanent-resident transients. That shouldn’t be counted as a real benefit to Georgia. For example, during my days when I was at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, I put very little if any money into the local economy. So, some of this shouldn’t be counted as a benefit to the host state.

IndyPendant March 5, 2014 at 10:56 am

So only native Americans should receive any benefits?

Harry March 5, 2014 at 10:58 am

I don’t get your point.

Harry March 5, 2014 at 11:07 am

OK, I get your point. But there’s a big difference between a service member deployed to a state for a year or so, and someone who lived in the state for many years and put down roots.

Ellynn March 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm

The bases I listed have some servicemen in an area for more then a year if they have families. They buy houses using 0% down on FHA backed military loans, knowing that the DOD will buy it from them if it does not sell after a year. The local school systems get funds to educate their children. They buy local cars, local enntertainment, and shop locally for most items. Plus you left out the civilian population who work on base. They are local Georgia voters, taxpayers, and spenders. They are paid by the DOD but they don’t get military benifets and other goodies serve persons do. My neiboghor has work on a base for 21 years. Just because you were a light spender, doesn’t mean others are not. Plus look at what the DOD does for the Port of Savannah. I-16 has an off ramp that leads to a very nice road that ends right at a deep water terminal so all the nice military equipment sent over seas, and flown into Savannah from all over the country can end up in a nice USNS vessil heading to God knows where. Military spending and benifits are more then just what is spent.

gcp March 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm

The purpose of the military is to protect this country, not to provide jobs to civilians. Billions wasted at Lockheed to fund the lousy F-22 and now an NSA franchise to insure the useless Fort Gordon is never closed. Of course the military produces some legitimate civilian jobs but that should never be its primary purpose no matter what we hear from the Chambliss/Kingston/Isakson crowd.

Ellynn March 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I’m not talking about creating jobs for the sack of creating them. These are jobs and bases that the military has slated as needed ” to protect this country”. Stewart has gotten smaller, Hunter a bit bigger, and Kings Bay remains the same. My point is we have bases and they do have benifit to the state more most of you know. They also effect the size and work load of the Port of Savannah.

notsplost March 5, 2014 at 6:26 am

I tend to agree. You can’t have it both ways – either the Federal government is broke, or it isn’t.
If you believe as I do that absent endless money printing by the Fed that devalues our currency and steals from the poor and gives to the banks, the Federal government is hopelessly insolvent, then you can’t go begging the DC stooges for money and remain intellectually honest.

Raise the money locally or shut up.

jiminga March 5, 2014 at 9:36 am

Obama and Biden made promises but we must remember their lips were moving when they did so. To them, yesterday’s promises are so…..yesterday.

xdog March 5, 2014 at 10:45 am

Everyone should relax. The budget, like the state of the Union address, is a ritual that means very little as to how money is actually spent. Congress will do what they want.

Harry March 5, 2014 at 11:05 am

But not being in Obama’s budget would give Democrats cover to say that the Republicans, when they add it, are inflating the budget with constituency pork. Or am I wrong?

xdog March 5, 2014 at 11:34 am

All the pols want it and if it weren’t for sequestration, they’d probably have it now. That’s the place for political gotchas.

I expect the state delegation will get some funding allocated this year. Gopers will have to consider SC/Charleston too. But I don’t think the funding is crucial. It’s not like they’ll shut down the port if they don’t get it.

seenbetrdayz March 5, 2014 at 11:41 am

If Georgia had started putting away money for the project a decade ago when it seemed like every other PP post was about deepening the port in Sav., we could have probably dredged it to 5,000 feet by now and been done with the whole issue, lol.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.”

Comments on this entry are closed.