Does Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue have something against our community?
With friends like him, we don't need enemies.
Last year, Perdue earned local anger for a line-item veto slashing money for Augusta's Golf Hall of Fame - an appropriation that was hard to defend anyway. But he also killed funding that would have maintained the state's small elementary foreign-language program, and drew protesters from Stevens Creek Elementary School where the nationally acclaimed program is now struggling to survive.
A year later, Perdue has done it again. In signing the state's $21.1 billion 2009 budget Wednesday, the governor also sliced small but significant local funding.
He cut $250,000 that would have furnished a Georgia Highway Patrol station that Columbia County taxpayers are spending $2 million to build.Cutting that money, when locals already are footing the bulk of the cost for this new state facility, is an arrogant slap in the face.
A smaller but more inexcusable local cut, however, is $150,000 for restoration of the Confederate Powderworks Chimney in Augusta. Perdue signed his veto with a terse, "State support of this project is not justified."
Come again? Does Perdue think the chimney is a relic from Tara?
The chimney is the final piece of the Powderworks, the only surviving structure built by the government of the Confederate States of America. The chimney isn't some local curiosity; it is a national treasure in need of repair.
Especially bewildered by Perdue's funding cut are local Confederate history buffs, including members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Carl Miller, of Grovetown, a member of the Gen. E. Porter Alexander Camp of the SCV, says the chapter nearly 10 years ago worked to raise $10,000 to pay an engineering firm to examine the chimney and put together a plan for its restoration.
"I guess now we're back to where we started," the bitterly disappointed Miller says.
Beyond Perdue's short veto message, it's anyone's guess why his knife has been so keen to slice local funding:
- Is it a jab at House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin? Harbin says he spoke to Perdue this week and says the governor has "good reasons" for the vetos. So what are they?
- Is Perdue taking a swipe at former state Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem because of Fleming's close ties to House Speaker Glenn Richardson? Richardson, a likely candidate for governor, has famously feuded with just about everyone, including the governor.
- Is the Powderworks cut Perdue's petty revenge for all the picketing from Confederate flag-waving Southern heritage groups, claiming "Sonny Lied" early in his first term by not allowing a vote on the old state flag?
- It all of the above? Or none?
Whatever the motive, Perdue hasn't exactly endeared himself to our community - which is all the more disappointing considering the overwhelming support Columbia County voters gave him in both of his elections.
In any event, this certainly is no way to treat friends.
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