Gov. Sonny Perdue and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Georgia’s longest-serving member of Congress are having words over who’s at fault for the state’s transportation dilemma.
Last week, the Obama administration awarded Florida $1.25 billion for a high-speed rail project. North Carolina was handed $525 million.
And Georgia received $750,000.
On Friday evening, Lori Geary of WSB-TV rolled tape in which Lewis was asked why Georgia deserved such pocket change.
“It’s the fault of the leadership in this state,” Lewis said. “We’re so far behind.”
Told of the congressman’s comments, Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley replied with an e-mail that included this:
It’s so funny to me that Congressman Lewis and Congressman Scott are blaming Republicans, when it’s the Democrats that control the White House, the Congress and the agencies making these grants. Too bad they couldn’t use their influence to help our case.
The Governor has seen effective implementation of high speed rail first hand in both Europe and Asia. That’s one reason he’s been so enthusiastic about his support for high speed rail…
High-speed rail is obviously very expensive and we have extensive transportation needs and limited funding. The funding that we have now is essentially already tied up in currently planned projects and maintenance and operations. Governor Perdue has proposed additional transportation funding and high speed rail will be eligible to compete for those new funds as they are approved by the Legislature and the voters.
The jab was not appreciated by Lewis, who issued a rebuttal at 11 p.m. Friday:
“It is a shame and a disgrace that someone in Governor Sonny Perdue’s office would take a cheap partisan shot on an issue that means so much to the people of Georgia. Transportation should be at the top of every elected official’s agenda in Atlanta, and it has been a major focus for me throughout my entire tenure in Congress.
“I have brought back hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to help solve Georgia’s transportation problems over the years, only to have millions left unused by the state…
“More recently, partly due to my influence and the power of the Democratic majority, the Georgia Department of Transportation was a top recipient of stimulus dollars. GDOT alone received nearly $572 million in stimulus funding, without any Republican support from our delegation and in spite of criticism by the governor. Yet the state only allocates $2 million in its upcoming budget to MARTA, a vital transportation resource which is $160 million in debt….
“I have said for years that Georgia needs a comprehensive, regional transportation plan to solve our problems. That is not the responsibility of any federal authority, but it rests squarely on the shoulders of the governor. While Georgia dawdles, other states like Florida and North Carolina are seizing opportunities to use transportation as a means to draw big business, opportunity, and jobs to their states. Georgia is not in the running because it does not have a plan.
“I have done my part and will continue to bring federal money home to the people of Atlanta. Now it is time for other responsible officials to do theirs.”
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