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Sunday, May 2, 2010 - 8:50pm

Savannah Gets Budget's Biggest Tickets

While state lawmakers were keen on cutting costs in the budget they approved last week, they left untouched the spending plan's single largest appropriation.

Savannah's legislative delegation wanted $68 million for the city's continuing quest to deepen its harbor.

The local lawmakers not only got that appropriation, they also successfully shephereded $120 million in state spending to complete the Jimmy DeLoach Parkway, a highway seen as vital to the port.

"If you remove the departments and the normal line items for the maintenance and operations of the entire government, this is the single largest amount," says Tripp Tollison, a legislative aide for the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce.

In a tough budget, they also could've been big targets.

"This will send a strong signal to the feds that we're very serious about this project," Tollison says.

The state now has approved about half the amount it needs for the federal government to kick in its share of the harbor deepening's $530 million price tag.

State officials see harbor deepening as vital to the state's economy.

They estimate, 286,000 Georgia jobs -- roughly one in 14 -- rely in some way on the ports.

However big this year's appropriation, it's still not the last dollar in taxpayer spending for harbor deepening

Georgia's now halfway toward the amount it needs for the federal government to kick in its share of the deepening's $530 billion price tag.

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