By Maria Saporta
Gov. Nathan Deal hinted that progress is being made in the private water negotiations with Alabama and Florida, during a “Meet and Greet” event Wednesday evening at the Georgian Club in Cobb County.
“I’m working diligently,” Deal told the gathering elected and civic leaders invited by the Council for Quality Growth. “This is the kind of thing you can’t even tell your wife about, and I can’t tell you either. I think you are going to be pleased by what we are going to produce.”
Deal said he was encouraged by the latest court hearing on the appeal of Judge Paul Magnuson’s ruling that would drastically reduce the amount of water metro Atlanta can withdraw from Lake Lanier in July 2012 if an agreement is not reached. But Deal said Georgia can’t rely on the possibility of a favorable outcome of its appeal.
Deal said he is focusing his efforts on working with the new governors of Alabama and Florida, initially concentrating on Alabama where talks are further along.
“We are hopeful we will produce significant and positive results on that,” Deal said.
Also, Deal mentioned his commitment to providing funding for future water supply, including reservoirs. But he added that the funding also could go to other water projects — “short-term proposals that don’t cost nearly as much money or take as long” to build.
Deal also spoke out strongly in favor of the 2012 regional transportation sales tax referendum because of the need for a new revenue source.
“We have got to be willing to go out to sell this idea to our constituents,” Deal said. “That’s not going to be an easy sell.”
Specifically, Deal said the failure of voters to pass a trauma care tax was of concern.
“You can’t taken anything for granted,” Deal said. “I think we have a good case to make.”
Then the governor made one of his strongest appeals for regional cooperation that he has made to date. Several key issues, such as water and transportation, “have regionalism attached to them.”
But with Georgia’s 159 counties, sometimes regional cooperation can be challenging.
“By the time you’ve said the word regionalism, you’ve crossed the line and you are in somebody else’s county,” Deal said. “The worst thing in the world would be to build roads to nowhere” because counties had not coordinated their plans.
Deal also said that building reservoirs without regional cooperation also would be a mistake.
In the funniest line of the evening, Deal recognized his former congressional colleagues, including U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and U.S. Rep. Tom Price. “I don’t miss being with them, quite honestly,” Deal said.