Sinking Savannah: Obama’s delay on port deepening hurts all of Georgia

by Marietta Daily Journal

The Obama admiration talks a lot about how it has “rescued” the economy, although economists say this is the weakest recovery of the past century.

One of the reasons that recovery has been so weak is that the White House is consistently more focused on politics than economics, more focused on helping itself than helping the people. And Georgians got a bruising reminder of that last week.

You’ll recall that last year Vice President Joe Biden famously promised that long-awaited funds for the $600 million deepening of the Port of Savannah to 47 feet from 42 feet would be forthcoming this year.

“We are going to get this done, as my grandfather would say, come hell or high water!” Biden promised.

But as it turned out, Obama & Co. didn’t need hell or high water to find an excuse to delay the funding once again. All they needed was their never-ending quest for political advantage.

As Georgia House Speaker David Ralston put it, “We found out yesterday that ‘come hell or high water’ means about the same thing as ‘If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.’”

Obama’s budget proposal last week for FY2015 failed to include construction money for the Savannah port, stunning Georgia officials. After all, the port widening is seen as the most crucial current economic development project in Georgia, an attempt to make the port accessible to the super-sized freighters that will dominate world trade once the widening of the Panama Canal is complete.

And don’t think the only city impacted is Savannah. The goods that move through that port travel our highways to and from every corner of the state and are tied to hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Gov. Nathan Deal, shocked by Obama’s move, quickly proposed using $232 million from the state’s 40 percent share of the project’s cost to jump-start construction until the federal dollars come through. But Obama wasted no time in deep-sixing that idea. The White House declared it will not allow any harbor expansions around the country to go forward until Congress reauthorizes the Water Resources Redevelopment Act, something it hasn’t done in five years. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, passed a $12 billion bill last May and the House, controlled by Republicans, passed an $8.2 billion version of the bill in October.

But Obama prefers to use the funding as a political chip. Most likely, he is waiting until this fall’s elections, when he will finally OK the money and use it as a way of boosting Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn. If Georgia’s economic well-being and those thousands of jobs are left in limbo in the meantime, it’s no big deal to him.

No matter that the president once had included the harbor deepening in his “We Can’t Wait” initiative of 2012, as U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss (both R-Ga.) reminded.

“It is clear (that Obama and Biden) 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 construction was solely the administration’s,” they said in a joint statement last week. “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.”

And Georgia residents, and the state’s economy are the losers.



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