Georgia Governor Nathan Deal expressed his frustration with the federal government’s handling of the Syrian refugee issue, and dropped several hints about transportation projects he expects to be revealed at the start of the legislative session in January. Deal spoke to reporters this afternoon after keynoting the 30th annual meeting of the Council for Quality Growth.
At least three Syrian refugees have arrived in the Peach State after the governor expressed his opposition to taking on new refugees over terrorism concerns. Deal was asked about providing food stamps for to the new refugees, and said he wants to take a wait and see attitude. He complained that the United States government doesn’t tell officials in Georgia who the refugees are and where they are. Deal said, “The only way we know they are actually here is when they show up and apply for food stamps. There’s something wrong with that.”
The state of Texas has filed a lawsuit in an effort to block incoming Syrian refugees from entering that state. When Governor Nathan Deal was asked if he would be willing to file a similar suit on behalf of Georgia, he said, “If they keep prodding me, I might, and it appears they are willing to keep prodding.” The governor pointed out that in the end, the SNAP program (food stamps) is ultimately a federal responsibility. “It’s their program. If they don’t like the way we do it, let them come in and run it. We’ll hand it over to them.”
On the possibility of the federal government filing a lawsuit against the state over the issue as it has indicated it might, Deal said he was ready to defend against it, although he would prefer to spend the defense money elsewhere.
On a brighter note, the governor went into a little more detail about new transportation projects he had hinted were coming in his address to the Council for Quality Growth. The project list will include all the regions within the state. “I anticipate having a map of the entire state of Georgia,” Deal said, that will “show all of the projects both in the metro as well as those that are outside the metro region that are going to be done with the extra money.”
One reason that money will be available for new transportation projects is because the federal government will have passed a long range transportation funding bill. President Obama is expected to sign the measure today. The federal money the state will receive can be used for some of the maintenance and repair projects that were originally planned to be paid for with money from the state’s 2015 Transportation Funding Act. That allows state dollars to be used for new projects that will cost less than if they were constructed with federal dollars.
Pleased to see a longer transportation bill at the federal level, Governor Deal said, “I wait to see what all the details of that might include, but that’s an indication that at least Congress understands the importance of the transportation bill and the funding that’s necessary for keeping our infrastructure in place.”
The governor didn’t indicate the size and scope of the project list, but said he had seen a proposed list. His opinion? “I think its going to probably be the biggest visible evidence of tax reform and the results of it that we have seen in this state in a very very long time.”