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Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 12:24pm

Obama's Budget Disappoints Port Backers

President Obama's budget is falling far short of Georgia officials' expectations regarding funding for the Savannah harbor deepening.

Officials learned the budget includes $1.2 million for the project.

That is a fraction of the overall projected cost.

"Last July, the Obama Administration touted its commitment to expediting the deepening of Savannah's harbor," says U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah). "Today it failed to honor that commitment by continuing to slow walk this project. What happened to 'We can't wait'?"

Georgia has set aside more than $200 million for the $650 million port expansion, a top priority for state lawmakers.

But most of the money was to come from Washington.

Georgia officials were hoping for at least a $100 million in the President's budget.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Billy Birdwell says Congress will have the final say.

"The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has never been expected to be funded in its entirety up front," says Birdwell. "We've always planned for incremental funding which is typical for a Corps project of this size."

The President is proposing $48 million for New York and New Jersey port construction.

Florida has decided not to wait on Congress and it funding much of Miami port expansion on it own.

Georgia has been counting on the federal budget process, a tough road in recent years because of budget cuts.

"We would like to see more and quicker progress on this front," says Governor Nathan Deal. "That said, this funding in the President's budget shows the administration's support for the Record of Decision that gives the go-ahead for us to move forward.

A spokesman for the Georgia Ports Authority could not be reached for comment.

Ports up and down the East Coast are racing to expand their harbors since larger ships are expected to sail through the Panama Canal in 2015.