(WASHINGTON) –Today, all 16 members of the Georgia congressional delegation sent a letter to Sylvia Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), expressing disappointment in OMB for its failure to support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP.) Earlier this week, the Obama administration released its FY 2015 budget, and again failed to provide construction funding for the Savannah Harbor deepening.
SHEP is the state's number one economic development project, and has bipartisan support from Georgia's local, state and federal leaders. The president previously included SHEP in his 2012 "We Can't Wait" initiative, in which he specifically pledged to expedite SHEP and four other port projects. Just seven months ago, Vice President Biden visited the port in Savannah and said the project would be expedited and built “come hell or high water."
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (Omnibus spending bill), signed into law by the president on January 17th of this year, gave clear direction to the administration to begin construction on SHEP and to request the necessary funding. The administration's position, as evidenced by the Office of Management and Budget, is that they will ignore the explicit guidance from congress, and will instead request more funding for studies this year, further delaying the project.
The text of the letter is below:
March 6, 2014
The Honorable Sylvia M. Burwell
The Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Ms. Burwell:
We were very disappointed by your agency’s lack of support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP).
Our delegation is united in the belief that this project should have been funded under the explicit guidance provided to the executive branch through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. In this legislation, we included construction funds for SHEP (which we have done since fiscal year 2009), a two-year Section 902 waiver, and language explicitly stating that SHEP was to be considered in construction for the budget process. This legislation was signed by the President on January 17 of this year and had a clear directive: fund SHEP.
With a cost-benefit ratio of 5.5 to 1 and an annual net benefit to the nation of $174 million, SHEP has wide support. The President and Vice President have joined the entire Georgia delegation, the Governor of Georgia, Mayor of Atlanta, and countless local leaders in their strong support of SHEP. The President included the Port of Savannah in his 2012 “We Can’t Wait” initiative, and just this fall, the Vice President visited Savannah, stating that we will complete SHEP “come hell or high water.”
This project has been a priority for us, and the Governor and the Georgia General Assembly have allocated $256 million in state funds to be used for the state share of construction for SHEP. As the livelihood of this project has little alternative at this point, it is now imperative that the finalization of the Project Partnership Agreement with Georgia be completed as soon as possible and the Corps be allowed to utilize the state’s $266 million to initiate construction contracts this year. We intend to make this point clear to the Army Corps of Engineers as well.
We hope you would agree that stimulating our economy and creating new jobs through increased import and export trade is important. In order to accomplish that, we need to be serious about the construction of SHEP.
United States Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
United States Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Representative Jack Kingston (GA-01)
Representative Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Representative Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)
Representative Hank Johnson (GA-04)
Representative John Lewis (GA-05)
Representative Tom Price (GA-06)
Representative Rob Woodall (GA-07)
Representative Austin Scott (GA-08)
Representative Doug Collins (GA-09)
Representative Paul Broun (GA-10)
Representative Phil Gingrey (GA-11)
Representative John Barrow (GA-12)
Representative David Scott (GA-13)
Representative Tom Graves (GA-14)
More information on the Savannah Harbor Expansion project is available here.