Deal urges support for transportation referendum

Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday that the Atlanta region's best opportunity to improve transportation is to support next year's regional referendum.

Deal, speaking to the Atlanta Rotary Club, said he would personally advocate for the penny sales tax increase to fund a set list of regional transportation projects.

"Many of you have worked on this project," he said. "The round-table process has moved fairly smoothly. This is an opportunity for us to have projects with regional significance."

In his remarks, Deal also touched on education, the economy, water and the effort to deepen the Port of Savannah.

On the port, the governor said it will be next spring at the earliest before the state could get approval from all the federal agencies who must sign off on the project before the first shovel of dirt is turned. Georgia, Deal said, has the support of the Army Corps of Engineers, but obstacles remain.

Deal also said he expects to receive a report from investigators on the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal by the end of the month. Afterward, however, he said he would not speculate about what that report might find or what might come next. He said it would be a "last resort" for him to use new power granted by the Legislature to remove APS board members this summer.

The governor was optimistic when it came to the ongoing water dispute with Alabama and Florida. A panel of federal judges is considering the state's appeal of a lower court ruling that threatens much of metro Atlanta's drinking water.

"We expect we will get some relief there," he said.