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Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 1:40pm

Deal Signs Local Bills, Pushes Port

Governor Nathan Deal visited Southeast Georgia Tuesday to sign a local bill and talk about the 2013 state budget..

The new law puts a state agency under university control and the budget talk was all about the Georgia Ports Authority.

The education bill transfers an agency called Herty Advanced Materials Development Center to Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.

The Savannah-based center conducts research in industries including forestry and bio-products.

The move is aimed at boosting both the school and the center.

At the Port of Savannah, Deal highlighted state funding for the Savannah harbor expansion project.

"We have already committed at the state level, $134 million for harbor deepening," Deal says. "And today, I'm signing a budget that includes $46.7 million in additional bond funding."

The port project is still waiting on its largest source of funding from Congress.

The Governor said that the state will pay what's necessary to deepen the Savannah harbor if the federal government won't cover its share of the $653 million project.

"We're not going to let anything slow us down because time is of the essence," Deal says. "We're not going to make the 2014 deadline, which is when the larger ships will be coming through the Panama Canal. But we need to make it as close to that time-frame as possible, which means we need to start as soon as possible."

The Washington budget crisis and a ban on congressional earmark spending has made it tough to win federal funding.