Savannah senator: Casey Cagle threatened cash for port dredging
April 2, 2011, by jgalloway
Senate Republican leaders are pushing back against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s attempt this week to restore his authority over the chamber. State Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, this morning accuses Cagle of threatening the multi-million dollar funding needed for the dredging of the Port of Savannah.
A spokesman for Cagle denies all.
From Larry Peterson and the Savannah Morning News:
“He called me up to the podium and said I had been carrying a lot of water for [Senate President pro tem] Tommie Williams and [Majority Leader] Chip Rogers,” Carter said of Cagle.
“He said I was going to need help from the lieutenant governor to keep harbor deepening in the budget. I took that as a threat.”
Cagle could not be reached for comment late Friday, but spokesman Ben Fry called the accusation “completely false.”
State officials view deepening the harbor — which supports an estimated 300,000 jobs — as vital to keeping Savannah and the state competitive in world trade. The Senate and House already have passed different versions of a state budget that includes $32 million in bonds for harbor deepening.
A committee of lawmakers from both chambers — Cagle appoints the Senate members — is due to meet to iron out the differences.
The state already has advanced $104 million for the project, which needs hundreds of millions more from the federal government, plus various agency approvals.
Carter, contacted by the Morning News after rumors circulated concerning Cagle’s remarks, said he was appalled.
“I told him harbor deepening is an extremely important project and that I was disappointed to see it get caught up in Senate politics. … He obviously was trying to make a power play.”
Fry noted that Cagle long has supported port funding.
“As lieutenant governor,” Fry said, “he has personally fought to secure the necessary funding — since before Buddy was elected.
“ … He would not allow political considerations to enter into a decision like this.
“It is unfortunate that anybody might suggest otherwise in a completely false accusation.”
[Senate President pro tem Tommy] Williams said he believes Carter.
“I don’t think Sen. Carter has any reason to lie,” he said. “I’m sorry that this sort of thing happened.”
Senate Caucus Chairman Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, was more direct.
“This is pretty bad,” Cowsert said. “ … I am very disappointed to hear that the lieutenant governor would resort to a threat.
“That not only harms Sen. Carter and his constituents but also our entire state and an economic development project vital for our future, all for the pursuit of political power.”
– By Jim Galloway, Political Insider