The governor’s farewell message to lawmakers

Published 8:22 am Friday, March 19, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Gov. Bob McDonnell’s letter to General Assembly members upon adjournment of the 2010 regular session last weekend.

As we conclude the work of the 2010 session of the General Assembly I congratulate the members of the oldest continuous legislative body in the Western Hemisphere for your leadership, cooperation and dedication to the citizens of Virginia.

This has not been an easy time to serve in elective office. The global economic downturn has resulted in job losses and reduced incomes for Virginians in every city and county. It has led to declining revenue and very tough choices here in Richmond. It has caused hardship and sacrifice for many Virginia families and businesses.

As we began this session, we all knew well the difficult decisions that our current circumstances demanded we make. The size of this year’s $4.2 billion deficit, and the $2.3 billion in budget reductions I proposed, were both unprecedented in Virginia history.

Upon taking office on Jan. 16, I laid out three top priorities for our first session together. First, we must come together to close an historic budget shortfall of $4.2 billion through spending reductions and prioritization, not tax increases on the people. Second, even in the midst of our difficulty budgetary situation, we must have the foresight to invest in policies that promote job creation and economic development in the years ahead. Third, we would institute innovative education reform in our public schools to provide new opportunities for parents and school children, particularly those who are at-risk and disadvantaged.

Two months later, all three of these objectives have been achieved through bipartisan cooperation between the executive and legislative branches.

The spending reductions in this budget, necessitated by the decline in revenue, have not been easy to make. Education and health care cuts will have a real impact on many Virginians. However, you have done well for our people by rejecting record new proposed tax increases, restoring cuts to public safety, and preserving funding for transportation and higher education.

When I presented our “Jobs and Opportunity Agenda” on Jan. 26, I was joined by Democratic and Republican bill patrons from both chambers. The bipartisan launch of our 36 pieces of legislation designed to promote job creation and economic development, has been replicated in the bipartisan success these measures have enjoyed. Thank you for your support.

When these new policies take effect, we will have a more competitive Governor’s Opportunity Fund to help attract new businesses to Virginia, tax credits for major job creation projects and green jobs, new growth tools for high unemployment areas of our state, resources for the fast-

growing science and bio-tech fields, and new investments in, and incentives for, tourism, film production, wine-making, and other job-creating industries. With these new tools we will focus on creating jobs and expanding the tax base.

Our “Opportunity to Learn” education reform agenda similarly benefited from bipartisan support. No matter what party we belong to, we all agree that a child’s educational opportunities should be determined by her intellect and desire to learn, not her zip code. The effort to pass these measures required compromise and cooperation of a kind rarely seen in government today.

It will now be easier to open a high-quality public charter school in Virginia. Virtual learning programs will grow with more technology. Colleges and universities will be able to bring their immense resources to our public education system to the benefit of our young people. These reforms will benefit all Virginia parents, students and teachers, and particularly those students who are at-risk and disadvantaged.

There will be new protections for victims of domestic violence. We have moved a step closer to becoming the “Energy Capital of the East Coast” through the passage of proactive legislation to make our official state policy favor offshore energy exploration and development, and devote future royalties and revenues to transportation and green energy research and development.

For 14 years I served with you in the legislature. Together we debated the major issues of the day and vigorously articulated and defended our core philosophies and big ideas. We also never forgot that at the end of those debates, we remained first and foremost Virginians, with a common commitment to excellence and results for the citizens. Thanks for your cooperation, and the general civility through which you dealt with our administration in our first 60 days together. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the years ahead to build the “Commonwealth of Opportunity” that every Virginian deserves to call home.