By now, you’ve probably heard that State Rep Winfred Dukes has been accused of costing Albany State University the funding for the Ray Charles Fine Arts Center.
You may have even heard that he got into a very verbal and visual altercation with his accuser around lunchtime today.
I can verify that the accusations are indeed accurate, and to steal a phrase from the late great Paul Harvey, here’s the REST of the story…
It all began, according to several sources, on January 30. On that day, the House of Representatives debated the Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grants. At about one hour and 36 minutes into the debate, Rep Dukes makes the comments shown in this video – which was taken directly from the video in the GPB archives. Now, the comments Rep Dukes makes about Delta and Gulfstream could be taken as attacks on Reps Burkhalter and Keen, respectively. Rep Burkhalter’s district is in the North Fulton/Alpharetta area, where Delta is a major player due to the proximity of its home base at Hartsfield Airport. Rep Keen’s district in Brunswick is the site of a major Gulfstream office. Burkhalter and Keen are also 2nd and 3rd in charge of House leadership, right behind Speaker Glenn Richardson.
So the comments in the video, and the fact that this early in the session he was already balking on major initiatives of House Leadership, didn’t earn Rep Dukes too many favors. And ultimately, as we all know, the way politics unfortunately works is who owes who favors. I personally can’t STAND this, but until we elect people with spines that will stand for right no matter what, it is the way the game is played.
So Rep Dukes already was shooting himself in the foot, when ANOTHER major pet project of House Leadership came up. Indeed, this particular project was SB 200, the Department of Transportation reorganization that was signed by Governor Perdue today, and has been a pet project of his throughout the session. House Leadership knew this particular bill was going to be extremely close, and the voting was kept open for quite a long time – roughly 5 minutes, about 5x as long as any other vote. While it was speculated then by myself, Jason Pye, and many others, that much deal making was going on during this time, I can now confirm this – and Reps Dukes and Fullerton were at the heart of it.
You see, according to what I am hearing, a deal was made whereby if Reps Dukes and Fullerton voted for SB 200, BOTH the Ray Charles project at Albany State AND the project at Darton would be funded in this year’s budget. Rep. Fullerton upheld her end of the deal and voted for SB 200, and Rep Dukes simply walked away from the chamber and did not vote. Because he did not vote, the Speaker himself was forced to take the EXTREMELY unusual move of casting a vote himself, and the Speaker’s vote – that should have been Rep Dukes’ vote – was the deciding factor in the passage of the bill.
Because of Rep Dukes reneging on his end of the deal, and because he had made no secret that the Albany State project was a pet project of his, Leadership then decided to strip the Albany State project from the budget during the final conference committee.
So you see, Rep Dukes DID, in fact, cause Albany State to lose the funding for the Ray Charles project, no matter how much he protests it.