Southern Unity?

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Georgia Senator Zell Miller unveiled his plan to revive the Southern Black Belt by proposing a new $100 million agency Wednesday to address poverty in the swath of predominantly black counties.

It's the third different legislative approach by Southern lawmakers, who contend the counties stretching from Texas to Virginia are the last impoverished region that hasn't benefited from a federal agency focused entirely on its needs.

Miller's plan is somewhat less ambitious and less expensive than two already proposed in the House, but he says there is plenty of room for compromise.

The Southern Regional Commission, as he calls it, would get $20 million a year for the first five years, about half the amount proposed in a similar effort by North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre.

Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, a fellow Democrat, is pushing a nearly $500 million plan to merge the Black Belt counties with the current Delta Regional Authority, which touches some of the territory.

Miller, a former Democratic governor and a native of the north Georgia mountains, said he would meet with the two congressmen soon in hopes of reaching a consensus.

The obstacle will be money, Miller admitted. Lawmakers are trying to keep spending in check to pay for a potential war with Iraq, and it's not clear there will be much interest in a new domestic agency.

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