Speaker sinks governor’s plan for a transportation super-agency

Speaker Glenn Richardson made a dramatic appearance before the House Transportation Committee late Thursday, acceding to the wishes of his members — and all but killing Gov. Sonny Perdue’s plan to create a transportation super-agency.

The governor had called for stripping the much-maligned board that governs the Department of Transportation — constitutionally controlled by the Legislature — of its control over $2 billion in spending.

That power would have been handed to a State Tranportation Authority dominated by the governor, speaker and lieutenant governor. And a secretary of Transportation.

“We understand you don’t wish to create a new agency and you don’t wish to change the way we elect the DOT board,” Richardson said, according to my AJC colleague Ariel Hart — who was in the room.

Richardson hinted that the governor would probably win the power to appoint the DOT commissioner, now the province of the DOT board, and more control of the DOT staff.

A refashioned S.B. 200 comes up before the House Transportation Committee at 11 a.m. Friday. “It will change around a little how some of the officers are selected, but it does not change the DOT board,” the speaker said.

Evidence of intense negotiations between Richardson and Perdue included a conciliatory statement from Bert Brantley, spokesman for the governor. Only weeks ago, Richardson stood with Perdue to endorse the governor’s plan.

It is significant that Richardson made only one indirect reference to a sales tax for transporation — which has been the subject of intense fighting between the House and Senate for the last two sessions.

Richardson indicated that he was interested more in how current funds flow, and preserving the House’s influence over transportation policy.

“The important thing is it allows us to have a role in the planning process, and allows us — and the governor — to have a role in the appropriations process,” he said.

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had declared negotiations over a sales tax for transportation — the Senate wants a regional approach, the House prefers statewide — separate from the “governance” issue.

But it’s now clear that the transportation issue is being approached from two different directions, and that the solution will have to include an agreement on sales tax, governance — and MARTA financing, just to make things complicated.

In other words, a final deal — which no doubt will come in the final hours of the session — will have three times the number of issues that require resolution. And thus could have thrice the possibility of failing.

One indication of hard bargaining between the speaker and the governor came at the outset of Richardson’s address to the transportation committee.

He began by apologizing for mentioning earlier — in private, apparently — a report drafted by the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, which showed that more than two-thirds of federal stimulus money spent on transportation had been directed to the districts of House Transportation Committee members. The information was incorrect.

Said Richardson:

“Now, I never meant to say that y’all asked for it. I thought it was a power play.

“As it turns out, the same people who put that information together are the same people that gave our economic outlook for the state of Georgia this year. They missed it pretty severely.

“I have an apology from OPB. They said there were numerous reasons the list was inaccurate, but suffice it to say this is ridiculous, shoddy staff work.”

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5 comments Add your comment

Pleased

March 26th, 2009
9:51 pm

Thank God!!! The Speaker finally woke up and saw that this whole “governance” issue was nothing but a power play by the Gov. Makes you wonder? After 7 years of nothing in transportation, Sonny suddenly wants to change everything about DOT. Oh, it is the worst ever! They over spent, don’t have a statewide transportation plan, etc, etc. Well, first, the last two Commissioners (Linnenkohl and Famous Gena) were Sonny’s choices. Poor judgement there. Secondly, until this point his greatest investment in transportation has been Fast Forward, which got DOT in the mess it is financially today. They do have a statewide transportation plan, it is called the STP, which is for 25 yrs and updated every 6 yrs. Hello Sonny, did no one tell you this tidbit? This bill was about either one or two things, maybe both. Sonny hated 6 of the 13 Board members and could not control them. They listened to the folks who hired them for the job, the legislators. One in particular was a thorn in his side. Those 6 also didn’t cowtow about or with the Famous Gena (and there are more stories out there on that gal, whew!!!! naughty girl). So he decided to rid himself of those 6 nuisances. He had all the control without those problems with the new State Transportation Authority. Secondly, why is he so obssessed with gaining control over this very financially influential department with only a little over a year left in office? Something smells here. Notice how Gena came in and things were the worst ever? She threw DOT from accrual accounting to cash and suddenly screamed they were almost a $1 billion over spent? Did you know we are the only state in the Union utilizing cash based accounting? Hm…..check with the federal highway authority or USDOT. Something is not right here. He claims this is a legacy? well, pal, you should have started on that little issue way before now. Someday when all this is over and Sonny Boy leaves office we may found out what the real motivation was behind SB 200. Until then, Go Mr. Speaker, GO!!!!! Dont’ let him (Sonny) get anything. Who cares, he is gone in a year back to Bonaire and hopefully will spend his days playing in his grain silos. Hats off to you, MR. Speaker!!!

GoFishSonny

March 26th, 2009
9:55 pm

Well there you have it!! Just like I said last Friday, Glenn has played Sonny and Casey for the two fools they are. A political masterpiece if ever I saw one. No State Transportation Authority; No merging of SRTA and GRTA; no neutering of GDOT and the GDOT Board is still walking the dog. The combined threats, lies and intimidation by Sonny, Casey, “Shamu” Mullis, Tommie Boy Williams and WSB-TV’s favorite “newlyweds” couldn’t beat one little old Speaker from Paulding County.
And not only that, the Speaker calls out Sonny and Casey’s puppets at OPB and shows them to be nothing more than a bunch of political hacks willing to lie to the public if it keeps them in their job.
Sonny and Casey, you bet it all and you lost it all in this one stupid, egotistical power grab. While Sonny rides off the count his dirty cash down on Jekyll Island, Casey heads back to the Dairy Queen in Gainesville. And don’t be suprised to see one last move…. Escrow the toll money to pay off the GA 400 debt, and shut down the toll booths immediately. That means no more operating revenue for SRTA so look for Gena to be the tour guide at the Bonaire Bassfishing Hall of Fame!

GDOT WINS

March 26th, 2009
11:02 pm

Sonny Loses I like that ring, be nice to hear it when Cagle goes down in 2010.

Sonny DO

March 27th, 2009
6:28 am

Yesterday was a good day but it ain’t over yet. There could be compromises next week that may allow Sonny some of the power he wants. They don’t call them the best politicians money can buy for no reason.

Sonnyisacrook

March 29th, 2009
6:01 pm

What I want to know is why Sonny couldn’t fashion legislation that was as well thought out as the house committee compromise? As long as Gena doesn’t become the Chief Planner for GDOT then the farm will be safe.