Lobbyist: Politics hurt funding flow

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Speaking to the Albany City Commission Tuesday, a lobbyist hired to push the city's agenda through Congress said that political pressure in the Republican party could delay millions in federal funding for roads and transportation projects from flowing into the area.

Marion Turner, the paid federal lobbyist who works for the MWW Group, told commissioners that they should consider themselves fortunate to have a Democratic congressman on the appropriations committee, otherwise funding for initiatives like replacement of the Holloway and Mercer drainage systems and construction of a new airport terminal likely wouldn't have come through.

"A lot of communities were essentially penalized for having Republican representation in the House," Turner said, pointing out that Republicans refused to support local projects with federal dollars amid a growing anti-spending sentiment among conservative voters.

"You guys are fortunate that not only did you have a Democrat, you had a Democrat that sits on the Appropriations committee," he said, referring to Congressman Sanford Bishop, D-Albany.

Democrats, Turner said, also agreed to limit the amount of federal dollars that flowed into their districts but restricted that spending to only projects to benefit non-profits or local government.

The city is set to receive nearly $1 million for airport improvements that will serve as the foundation for the construction of a new airport terminal.

Southwest Georgia Regional Airport is receiving one of only 11 appropriations given out across the country for airport projects, Turner said. There is only one other that is receiving federal funding in the state and that is the Macon airport.

Speaking on a massive $500 to $600 billion transportation bill, Turner said that the bill had slowed down in the Senate as both Democrats and Republicans have become reticent to pass a massive spending bill.

"There are a lot of Democrats right now that don't want to vote on a big spending bill because they're worried it may become an election issue, given that we have a deficit" Turner said. "But the question then becomes do we bend to political pressure only to neglect the vary infrastructure that commerce relies on?"

Turner suggested that the commission contact Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss to ask for their support of the transportation bill.

Additionally, Turner said that Congress had recently passed the state aid bill, which was meant to prop up Medicaid programs and to delay massive teacher layoffs.

With a total of $26 billion, the bill allocates $16 billion to shore up Medicaid for states struggling to meet the gap between federal and state funding and another $10 billion for teachers -- some of which is likely to come into Dougherty County.