Ga. senators blast Obama budget for Savannah port exclusion

Georgia's Republican senators are upset with President Obama because he left out funding for deepening the port of Savannah in his budget for the 2015 fiscal year.

Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, both Republicans, said Obama included the Savannah port expansion project in his 2012 "We Can't Wait" initiative that was designed to expedite federal infrastructure investment.

The duo added Vice President Biden both visited the Savannah port last year as he pushed Congress to approve a new $8.2 billion water infrastructure bill.

But Isakson and Chambliss said when Obama released his $3.9 trillion budget proposal for 2015 yesterday, he turned his back on the Savannah port project.

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"We are deeply disappointed and frustrated to see the promises to help advance the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project [SHEP] made by President Obama and Vice President Biden were not fulfilled in [yesterday's] budget release," the senators wrote.
 
“This administration has promised to deliver economic development and economic opportunity to the state of Georgia through the authorization and funding of [the Savannah port]," the Georgia lawmakers continued. "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.' ... 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."

Isakson and Jackson said Congress directed the administration to include the Savannah port in its 2015 funding request in the bill that passed earlier this year to fund the government for the rest of the 2014 fiscal year, which will end in September.

"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 lawmakers said. "The administration has once again chosen to ignore existing law, and in this case needlessly hamstring the advancement of SHEP."

The Savannah port was one of five ports on the East Coast that were identified by the Obama administration in 2012 for expedited expansion.

The other projects were in Miami, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; New York; and New Jersey. Each of them had long been sought by transportation officials in those states.