Alexander promotes Vidalia port

Published 12:03 am Friday, April 17, 2009

FERRIDAY — The proposed port in Vidalia is needed, U.S. Congressman Rodney Alexander said.

Alexander, the representative for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District, spoke at the Ferriday Rotary Club’s weekly meeting Thursday.

Approximately 45 percent of business in the United States is affected by the Mississippi River, Alexander said.

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But much of the land along the river is undeveloped.

“The strip of land along the river is one of the poorest in the nation,” he said.

“We are raising our young men and women and sending them somewhere else to get a job.”

The proposed port will be located near Vidalia’s second industrial park, and local officials have said having the port will be a valuable tool in industrial recruitment.

Alexander said he is working to see what can be done for the project, and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said after meetings in recent days he feels the port is closer to becoming a reality than ever before.

In recent years, local officials have lobbied the local congressional delegation for funding for the port, and are currently gathering information for the permits necessary to begin construction.

The representative also talked about issues on a national scale, citing as problems overtaxing and lack of foresight in entitlement programs.

In 1950, less than 40 percent of the national budget went to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, but 55 percent of the budget currently goes to the programs and estimates say by 2020 almost 65 percent of the budget will, Alexander said.

“We can’t sustain that growth,” he said. “There was never enough foresight to see how big our Medicare or Social Security systems have become.”

The government has taken on too many roles, Alexander said.

“We are squeezing the taxpayer until it is uncomfortable.”

But not all government spending is bad, Alexander said.

While he voted against the federal budget, the recent omnibus bill and the stimulus package, Alexander said he doesn’t feel bad appropriating money for projects.

Some might say to do so is hypocritical, but Alexander said he voted against the measures because they contained provisions he didn’t like.

“Hypocrisy would be to vote for something you disapprove of just to protect something you want,” he said.

Once a measure is passed, it is written in stone that a certain amount of money is going to be spent, Alexander said.

“I’m not going to sit back twiddling my thumbs and not do my job on the appropriations committee,” he said.

While he may not like the amount of money that will be spent, Alexander said it is up to him to make sure it is spent on legitimate work like riverbank stabilization and university projects.

“It doesn’t increase the amount of money we are spending — it just shifts it around,” he said. “Do you trust the President and the people working for him to spend it?

“I would rather that money stay here (in the district).”

And Alexander said that is why he’s not opposed to earmarks.

“I don’t think we should kick out a system we have used for years just because a few people have abused it,” he said.